SIDE STREETS: Don't be afraid; 'listers' are harmless

April 8, 2009
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They're here - the human probes known as "listers."

Starting today, about 1,700 are fanning out across Colorado, including 250 in the Pikes Peak region, going door-to-door looking for your house.

Listers look like you and me. You can recognize listers by the handheld computers/GPS satellite tracking devices they carry.

Don't worry, the listers come in peace.

In fact, they are agents of the federal government interested only in verifying addresses in advance of 2010, when the U.S. Census Bureau will attempt to count 310 million Americans at 145 million addresses.

"Our first major operation for the 2010 census is address canvassing," said Doug Wayland, a spokesman for Denver region of the Census Bureau. "We send people out and they walk up and down streets verifying addresses."

They are part of an army of 140,000 listers, hired by the Census Bureau and charged with knocking on every door in the U.S.

Listers will knock, introduce themselves and offer you a brochure and explanation of their activities. Don't worry, they won't hang around if you don't want to answer or aren't home.

If you do answer, they may ask whether your house is a single-family residence, duplex or something else.

"Between now and mid-June, they are going to canvass every single address in El Paso County," said Deborah Cameron, a Census Bureau spokeswoman. "They are going to be in front of each house and knock on every door, as a courtesy."

Driving around won't do. The precision of standing in front of every door is necessary as listers use their computers to create a pinpoint on a digital map, linking it to Global Positioning System navigation coordinates.

"We'll use the data they collect to create our census maps that we'll use to deliver next year's forms," Cameron said. "The listers won't be collecting any (detailed) information from people. They will try to be as non-intrusive as possible."

Cameron said listers should be easily identified by their Census identification badges, Census tote bags and by Census signs on their car doors.

She said the agency doesn't want folks to panic at the sight of listers, so it's notified local police and is trying to spread the word through the media to expect strangers. Besides the 250 listers working in El Paso County, three will canvass Teller County.

The agency is ramping up in other ways, too. It will open offices in Pueblo and Grand Junction in October.

Then comes the big push next spring when another army of probes, called enumerators, will go door-to-door. They are folks who will be asking more detailed questions, fleshing out the raw data gathered by the questionnaires.

And like the listers, enumerators are peaceful probes.


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