OPINION: Accepting Delivery of Appliances or Furniture Shouldn’t Expose Homeowners to Danger
By: Robert S Weinroth
Each week, for the past four years, at the invitation of the editorial board of the Florida Sun Sentinel, I have submitted my thoughts, in no more than 100 words, on events of the past week and then offer my thoughts on the future, addressing the issues impacting our residents. Every Sunday, the paper devotes one page to the Palm Beach and Broward County “opinion leaders.”
On Sunday morning, Pamela is the first up (the dogs and I roll back over as her alarm wakes her). On her way out to the fitness center she opens the paper, turns to the page where the submissions from 16 of the 100 or so contributors are printed and scans to see if I won the lottery. If I was fortunate enough to have my comments printed she leaves the open paper in the kitchen (where I can see it as the dogs and I make our Sunday round the block constitutional). If the paper is closed, I know 16 others were deemed to have presented a more interesting commentary in the “South Florida 100.”
To be honest, notwithstanding some very interesting commentaries from the panel, I often wonder how many people (other than those of us who contribute) actually take notice of our opinions. However, every once in a while, one of my printed columns has generated more than passing interest. This weekend’s contribution (which was printed) has generated a flurry of reactions.
“On the heels of the murder of an elderly Boca Raton resident, accepting delivery of her new appliances, comes the arrest of a furniture deliveryman charged with sexually assaulting a Greenacres woman. This situation demands immediate action to ensure people dispatched to our homes are fully vetted, as is currently the law for licensed home healthcare workers and medical equipment delivery personnel. Level-2 background checks, which include fingerprint-based FDLE searches and criminal history investigation, must be expanded to include anyone delivering or performing services inside a residence or business to restore confidence as we open our doors to total strangers.”
On Monday, I began to receive calls from constituents and the press. From my constituents came the confirmation that I was not the only one affected by these two incidents. After all, who among us has not waited at home for a delivery of an appliance or piece of furniture. Generally speaking things go well. We are conditioned to expect the delivery to be late and we realize leaving valuables out and about as we allow virtual strangers into our home is not a sensible thing to do. But, until recently, I never gave it a second thought when I left a family member to wait for and, ultimately, accept the expected delivery.
That lack of concern has evaporated, replaced by apprehension.
Notwithstanding our confidence in the retailer from whom we make our purchase, it is now evident that delivery is not always handled by people vetted and employed by them. In fact, in the case of the appliance delivery and setup (which resulted in the murder of a 75 year old Boca Raton resident), the appliance retailer outsourced the delivery to a third party and the third party with whom the appliance retailer had entrusted the delivery had, themselves, outsourced the task to a “fourth party.” An employee of that fourth party (now alleged to have beaten and burned the elderly Boca Raton resident) had been arrested last year for grand theft. Clearly, not someone you or I would have invited into our home (especially if the only person present was a vulnerable 75 year old woman).
The second incident (which actually occurred prior to the murder in Boca Raton) occurred in Greenacres, This time, a deliveryman is alleged to have sexually assaulted a woman after she had allowed him into her residence to deliver furniture. Her alleged attacker had a previous arrest for battery/domestic violence. Again, not exactly the person a woman would invite into to her home.
As I wrote in my South Florida 100 opinion piece, “this situation demands immediate action.”
When Pamela and I operated a licensed home medical equipment company, all of our employees were required to undergo a Level-2 background check. This included us, employees whose only contact with our clients was by phone or correspondence and those employees who actually delivered the equipment to our clients’ homes.
A Level 1 background check includes a state-only name-based background check, an employment history verification search, local county criminal searches, and sex offender registry checks.
A Level 2 background check, is more in depth. Level 2 checks include fingerprint-based searches of records maintained by the FDLE (FL Dept of Law Enforcement), national FBI criminal history searches, and county criminal record searches through local courts or law enforcement agencies.
Employers are mandated to conduct Level 2 screenings for positions involving significant levels of trust or responsibility. Jobs deemed to have significant levels of trust or responsibility include those involving children, the elderly, or other vulnerable populations.
Admittedly, a Level-2 background check cannot ensure the safety of a someone who allows a person into their home to deliver and/or install an appliance or furniture. HOWEVER, it would likely have precluded both of these alleged assailants from their position of trust.
Can there be anything more trusting than allowing someone into your home? And, with our elderly population in South Florida, there is a high probability a delivery person will interact with vulnerable individuals on a regular basis.
If you agree, please reach out to your state representative and/or state senator. In the mean time, I will determine how the county can improve this situation. A countywide ordinance, however, may not be very effective with regional distribution creating jurisdictional issues.
However, unless and until we broaden the applicability of the Florida statutes requiring Level 2 screenings for delivery personnel, I fear we may see a repeat of these incidents in the future.