Neighbourhood Watching ….


Well, I could never complain that I live in a boring place. I was given a ride home from work on Friday and as I was getting out of the car I noticed a group of 4 or 5 older teenage boys displaying various degrees of drunkenness. As one was about to throw up on front steps of a home there was a loud shout from a window: "not on my f-en steps you don't"  … they moved on and I moved inside.   

Only about half an hour later the manservant and I were enjoying an end-of-week drink out on our back deck.  I watched a woman "squirrel" her way down the alley keeping close to the fences.  I waited to see her come out past ours but she seemed to disappear.

Now …  the row house next to us has been empty since the owner passed away around this time last year and the estate has been a little slack maintaining the property.   They do not have an alley fence – just open "green space".

I looked down from our deck and I saw this person under next door's deck.  They were pulling items from their clothing and a plastic bag while they sat on newspapers. I motioned the manservant over and we could see they were laying out various drug paraphernalia – syringe, water, lighter, little baggie.    

At that stage the manservant called the police.  The person became aware that we were no longer nonchalantly sipping wine and chatting about our day.  They hastily gathered their things into a plastic bag and ran off down the alley.

When we moved in 2.5 years ago there was a "crack shack" across the alley from us and although we never had any "trouble" from it it is not the sort of venture you want to be living close to.  It took a new owner and an overdose death in the shed before it was cleaned up and properly secured.

We do not want the next door row house to deteriorate into a similar situation. 

The police arrived in about 20 minutes – given the amount of crime that happens around us – that was pretty good.  One officer told us that once a place looks deserted, it does not take too long before addicts/dealers will break in and set up there.  Under the deck is just the first step.  He sees it all the time.  

The manservant was able to give a very good description of the person fleeing and what they were wearing which was relayed to a beat cop we have.  But the beat cop was already busy with an "very inebriated young Hispanic male" who was on his way to hospital with a good dose of alcoholic poisoning! (yes, one of that group I saw earlier).

On Saturday our neighbourhood was featured in the Washington Post's  "Where we Live" section and was described as being "pleasantly walkable"  (obviously the journalist did not come walking at night….). The journalist wrote:

"Park View is still a community of conflicting images. Welcoming front porches, spring blossoms and tree-lined streets clash visually with dilapidated properties, graffiti-tagged walls and sketchy alleys"

Yes – we have a little way to go but it starts by being aware of what's happening basically in our own back yard. 

In the last few months a lot of these signs have been posted …..  the manservant and I are very careful not to stop and talk on a corner….  .


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33 responses

  1. Oh this sounds so charmiingly familiar. It becomes a chain reaction – when one person gets fed up and leaves, more good people follow and the vacancies get filled by people who bring the community down more. That's our experience, anyway.
    Have you read Malcolm Gladwell? His book The Tipping Point taught me that concept – that bad behavior attracts more bad behavior.
    Anyway, I sympathize, we're just trying to flee at this point.

  2. Good gracious! That is a lot going on in one evening. I sure hope you do not go walking in the dark. The notice is funny….so, as long as the group of more than 2 is up the street, it is OK, just not on the corner? Whew…stay safe 🙂

  3. As Liz's Dad said about living in Amsterdam during WW2 "It wasn't boring."To hear locals complaining about our town "going to the dogs" because of the occasional hoon driver is quaint and funny. They have no idea what others have to put up with.Actually we are so protected here that when a bloke here goes into town in his mini skirt you can see folk talking behind their hands. Wouldn't get a second glance in Geelong.I'm pleased you both are street smart and inclined to call the cops. Sometimes it can make a difference.

  4. We hope that it is the reverse of the situation you describe. This area suffered from "white flight" after the riots of 1968 and has basically been left in an awful state all these years. It's only been in the last few years that areas around us have started to gentrify. We hope we are next…. :-)No I've not read The Tipping Point – I'll look for it.

  5. Oh LOL – The manservant said "get your camera" but it seemed a bit too close to home.. In 2008 I did chronicle and post on vox a drug deal going down in the alley – I was a little nervous about it at the same time wishing I had a better zoom!

  6. I don't walk around on my own after dark. We live fairly close to the metro (train) station but if we've been out somewhere at night we catch a taxi home. If we have visitors that come by train the manservant always walks them to the station at the end of their visit.

  7. Last night, while in bed super early, I heard a car pull into the neighbor's driveway. Didn't sound like his truck. Then there were a variety of psssshtt noises, which I imagined to be tagging. I thought about going out but had no pants on and a unusual instinct not to get involved hit me and I decided to heed it and a few min later, the car took off. I forgot to check that side of the house to see if my home had been tagged, or the neighbor's garage, or the sidewalk/curb (and odd trend on my block), or if someone had 4 flat tires.

  8. Yes, I grew up on a farm outside a tiny NSW town – a major crime was someone speeding up the main street and not stopping to look both ways at the railway crossing. I think you told me before that your daughter was training as a police officer? – she will have to keep some things to herself so as not to worry you and Liz. And, yes I think that calling the police does make a difference in the long run. Constant demands for a police presence in our neighbourhood did result in a beat officer stationed at a Rec Center not far from us which had the result of fewer drug deals happening at the end of our street.

  9. That's seriously crazy! I guess I'm naive. The seamier side of life seems like something you see on a movie, not in real life! Although, I watch a policeman's kid and he tells me I have no idea what really goes on around here. One day he called to see if everyone was okay–he was out chasing an escaped murderer on the run from California about half a mile away and they were getting reports of gunshots from the houses just behind us. I guess it's there; I just don't see it. (Thank goodness!)

  10. It is difficult to live in most cities now. But the burbs aren't any better. The houses may be "nicer" on the outside, but what goes on inside isn't much better. The drug culture is out of control and has been for years. I always wonder why the neighbors know where the drug houses are but the police don't seem to recognize or raid them

  11. Kathryn has already mentioned she wants to work in the city first because it's known to be more "exciting". Actually she is in a holding pattern at the moment. A stress fracture of the shin is going to add about 6 weeks to the training. We find out today if she is going on light duties or home to be a couch potato while it heals. For a fitness focussed person it is going to be a frustrating time for herAlthough it's not an Aussie show, watching The Wire has been excellent but frightening. If we follow the US by 20 years like we used to then it can be a bitch of a job.

  12. The Wire is set in Baltimore – a mere 64 kms from DC….. I hope that your daughter gets the light duties rather than the couch – and for your peace of mind maybe a small "city" first.

  13. Well I laughed re your comment of no pants and I've stayed quietly in the house too. Residents can apply to the council to have graffiti removed from house sides, fences etc – there is a graffiti release form which makes me laugh with this section: I understand that only the area covered by graffiti will be cleaned or painted and not the entire structure. I understand that there are no promises being made about the color or quality of the services or materials used in doing this graffiti removal.

  14. I was expecting to paint a large white rectangle on my house tonight but, nope. I can't find a single trace of mischief. Now I wish I'd gone out so I could reconcile what the hell the noise was!

  15. It certainly sounds lively where you live! I used to live in a similar sort of area and it was a pain in the backside because my ancient little car was forever getting broken into. It's only the fact that it was so knackered that you couldn't start it unless you had 'the knack' that stopped them from taking it.

  16. Multiple sorts of crime around here too. Up until a couple of years ago, one could say "as long as you're not involved with the crime society one was safe". But now it's changing. (Though lots of the random killings are performed by mentally sick people that should be locked up but aren't "sick enough" to stay locked up) The drug dealing used to be quite a bit further downtown, though now it's moving into the outer skirts of the city center. The park close to our house is used as a drug trafficking spot.And it's very easy to spot because a) there is little police activity so they feel safe to make it pretty much out in the open b) the types of people are easily recognized because they're all of dark skin. So it's really no surprise to me that people have racist tendencies.It's even more obviously in the city center: the dealers = dark skin, the junkies = white. It is almost(!!) fascinating to watch.But just yesterday was a big news article that said that they now have found out, with all the cutting costs, that the police force on the street has been bisected in a very short amount of time.Unless they change that – things look pretty gloomily for this city too.Though at least it's still safe enough to walk home by night. I couldn't imagine having to live a place where that is not a possibility for me.Thumbs up for you having the guts to stay!

  17. my ancient little car was forever getting broken into. How frustrating that must've been. We don't own a car which is one less thing to worry about as burglaries from parked cars have increased dramatically while violent crimes have decreased slightly.

  18. I guess it's there; I just don't see it. (Thank goodness!) I used to check crime reports and stats for our neighbourhood all the time on the DC Gov website – they were so scary that I stopped reading them. Now I only "see" the ones that are either really major or happen right in front of me.

  19. Interestingly I called the son the next morning and he was here within an hour mowing the lawn and tidying up the back "problem" area. Then today a moving truck turned up outside, stripped the house of everything and a For Sale erected! We noticed there are no curtains on the windows and all the lights are on so you can see almost right through the ground level. We will be watching with interest to see what happens next.

  20. Drug dealing was a major problem in our street (thankfully down the other end) a couple of years ago. The council chopped down all the bushes along the footpath so that the area was much more open which puts them off. Also, the dealers used to hang their "baggies" in the bushes so they weren't actually on their person if searched!

  21. I always wonder why the neighbors know where the drug houses are but the police don't seem to recognize or raid them I once read that the reason for that was because if they raided them the guys just set up elsewhere so police might as well leave them where they can monitor them. We were at a neighbourhood watch type meeting tonight which one of our local policemen attended – exactly as you say happened. People started giving out addresses and garages and alley locations – the officer was like "what?" – it would be comical if it wasn't so serious.

  22. That's almost worse to have the windows wide open isn't it? Maybe the bright light will help discourage break ins. It sounds like you lit a fire under someone.

  23. It really was, especially since I was flat broke and it was costing me £40 a time to have the door bent back into shape (they got in by putting a foot on the side of the car and bending the top of the door backwards) and the steering column put back together. I took to just taping the wires together and getting Mr V to bend the door back roughly where it should be. We could never get it perfect though, so when it rained the seat got wet and wind & water came in as you were driving along. I did love that car though.

  24. Even in the posh neighbourhoods here, the students/twenty year olds stagger home drunk on the weekends and barf on the sidewalks as well as break bottles and such. When we hear them coming, Masha likes to stand out front smoking a cigarette. He looks scary enough to cause them to move on.

  25. Good for you for phoning it in – zero tolerance on theses things is the only way to go. I too live in a lovely Victorian street, but we are plagued by petty vandalism caused by drunks walking up our road to the council estate on Friday and Saturday evenings; virtually the whole street has now agreed to phone in any such problems to the police.

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