how to: when to call the poh-leese

Things have been pretty quiet on my block, I am happy to say.  But, a question that I have discussed with my neighbors is when should one call the police (a.k.a. the po po, 5-0, and Uncle LEO).  When one lives in a transitional neighborhood, calling the police can be a very sensitive issue.  The “rule” my husband and I have set for ourselves is that we will not call the po po on our neighbors (our street only) unless the situation REALLY warrants doing so.  Dependent on the safety level, etc., of your street, you may be able to do more/less, but here are a few factors to keep in mind when determining whether to call the po po.

1. If you are brand new and you stand out, you may want to wait six months or so before calling the po po for anything other than an absolute emergency.  Otherwise, you could get targeted as “that guy.”  For example, my husband and I were the only white people on our block when we moved there.  The first couple police showings on the street got pinned on us.  Getting pinned as the police callers has its ups and downs: people tend to behave more around you, but then some neighbors are hesitant to associate with you. 

2. If you are the only one calling, don’t expect a lot of results.  It is a stark reality that police will be more attentive to certain neighborhoods than others.  You may end up becoming frustrated quickly.  Set only one or a few goals at a time (e.g. I want to decrease the litter on my street).  And, remember, it takes time.

3. Think of alternatives to calling the police.  I’ll give some examples we have faced: our neighbor was having a party that was on past midnight, and it was not quiet.  My husband and I discussed our options, and decided to let it go without any other course of action.  The reasons were a. in almost every other way the neighbors are great (truly), b. their parties are only a few times a year, not a regular occurence, and c. the party would not produce any fights, etc. 

Another example: the church across the street from us hosts a Narcotics’ Anonymous meeting.  In our early days at the house, these NA meetings produced a physical fight in our front yard, drug dealing in front of our house, loud gatherings for hours on our lawn, etc.  My husband and I decided to contact the church instead of calling the police.  We decided to be neighborly.   At first, it turned out badly: one of the NA representatives screamed at us in our front yard, calling us liars in front of the whole NA group (oh, yeah, we felt really safe after that fiasco).  Then, to top it off, a representative from the diocese told us to just call the police when we saw illegal activity.  I was not about to call the police once everyone in the group knew that we had complained about them.  Most of them were court-ordered to the meetings.  However, I built a coalition with my neighbors (including the party neighbor) who also disliked the activity, and our voices together were heard.  The church put the squeeze on the NA group, and they now behave.

4. Build a coalition.  If there is an on-going problem where one call to the police won’t suffice (e.g. a drug house or a new nightclub), try to build a coalition.  Then, call everyone: police, district attorney’s office (Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office), mayor’s office, ABC board, city councilman’s office, etc.  Don’t stop complaining, log calls made to police, write letters, and, if it goes so far, get the media involved.  He who is the loudest voice can sometimes win.  Again, this is something that takes time.  My neighborhood was able to shut down a nightclub which was causing major problems, including a shootout in my alley.  But, it took our coalition nine months to get it closed, and we lucked out in that he was delinquent on his taxes and rent.  It could have taken longer.  However, a year and a half in and the same few drug houses are an issue in my hood.  So, I still have to be patient on those…

Do you have any observations on calling the po po in your neighborhood?

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2 responses to “how to: when to call the poh-leese

  1. Pingback: Byrd Park » When to Call the Cops on your Neighbors - Richmond, Virginia

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