Dear PoP

Dear PoP,

I hate to bring up another downer sort of question. But at what point do you call the cops if 5-6 guys are near your house yelling at each other and not for fun? Or do you not call police because it will be very obvious who called them? I elected to call 311 and the cops showed up within 5 minutes which was great. But then they left and the guys are pissed and walk by your house cursing, throwing bottles etc. (because you are dumb enough to sit on the porch and thought you have time to get back in house before the cops left). In my time living here, I’ve seen lots of things and never called the cops because I was afraid to. Today I did, and I think I am regretting it. Advice, opinions, experiences?


Dear Regrets,

You absolutely did the right thing. I would only add one caveat. If you happen to know these guys, it might be worthwhile trying to talk to them in a friendly way to see if they can keep the noise down first. If you think it is going to turn violent then of course do not intervene. It is a tough call whether or not you should talk to them if you don’t know them. It may be a bit awkward if you don’t know them and if you don’t feel comfortable approaching them then certainly call 311.

I think the important thing to note here is that you are just as much a part of this community as anyone else. As such, you have a right to live comfortably in a peaceful environment. If the yelling persisted past 10 or 15 minutes you are certainly within your right to call 311. Who knows what the argument is about. It could possibly turn violent. As for sitting on your porch afterwards, I do not think that was dumb at all. You should not, must not, feel like a prisoner in your own home. You are part of the neighborhood and have the absolute right to enjoy a late Summer’s eve on your porch. I don’t see how they could know it was you. You will have plausible deniability.

Of course if you feel unsafe, then I would go inside and call 311 again particularly if bottles are being thrown. But if it is not a persistent problem sometimes it is better to just let things blow over. I sometimes hear yelling when I’m in my house. On the occasions that I have experienced it, I have known the “yellers”, so I felt comfortable approaching them nicely and asking them to keep it down. I think something else to keep in mind is the time of any disruption. If it is at 8pm you may want to give a little more leeway than if it was occurring at 2am. Again, I think you did the right thing. I admire the fact that you didn’t just accept it. But again each circumstance is unique and does not necessarily require the same efforts. Certainly with any drug dealing or potential violence we must not hesitate to call 311. Stay strong.

7 Comment

  • Regrets – keep calling. I have drug dealers who live right behind me, less that 20 feet outside my back door. I call on them all the time and they know its me and I was scared at first, but its been several years now and I still call and they still curse me – but I’m the one doing what is right by the law, so I’ll keep calling. I think they know that, so they might shoot each other, but they won’t shoot me. The real problem is why am I still having to call after 3 years???

  • you did the right thing.. if you thought you could talk to them without any subsequent hassles, then id say do that-but you have to trust your instincts… simple as that… hang in there.

  • This might sound dumb but how do they know its you calling?

  • I’ve been calling for seven years. And I’m sure there are people who have been calling for longer.- For the same group of people…

  • oh, and I’ve had cops knock on my door in front of the people I called about saying, “Ma’am I understand you called about a problem!” I was really scared then, now it’s become this uneasy relationship where I like them in general, wish they had other options, but have accepted it as part of the neighborhood.

  • Emoemu,

    I think they may have known it was me that called because there are really only other 3 houses on my block and they were directly behind my house, it’s mostly commercial. And like I said in the letter, I was dumb (rubbernecker) enough to sit outside and watch the whole thing.

    That being said, I went and talked to my really great neighbors the next day, and they said they call all the time and to keep calling. That made me feel 100% better, and I know they look out for me. The alley directly behind my house is dealing hotspot. It gets flushed out by the police and all the activity stops for about 2-3 weeks and then it starts up again.

    I also popped by what I thought was a police precinct on the corner of 8th and Taylor (or maybe Sheppard). It is the Boys and Girls clubs. One of the volunteers at the club directed me to a different door and said I could talk to the police there. There were a couple of guys behind the desk, I have no idea if they were cops because they didn’t have on uniforms. I asked them for advice, bla, bla. I could not have been less impressed. They basically totally blew me off. Which I guess may be understandable given they have a lot to deal with. But I specifically asked, what can I do as a resident to help you do your job. They just said call. I don’t know, I thought the whole exchange was kind of sucked. I am going to go by the GA Ave department and ask the same thing. I really would like to help them do their jobs and do what I can to make the neighborhood safe, I am just not sure what that is.



  • I just wanted to share a positive and reassuring story about calling 311 that happened this Saturday night.

    I heard 3-4 gunshots near my house and called 311 to report it.

    I didn’t call 911 because the shots weren’t directed at me and I didn’t see or hear anything else (e.g. screams, people running, blood, etc.).

    I kept it simple: I told the person on the phone I’d just heard 3-4 shots; here’s the intersection; didn’t see/hear anything else.

    I opted not to leave my name/address.

    The police responded almost immediately. A patrol car made a couple of turns around the block, stopping and spotlighting yards, driveways, etc. A police officer on a motorcycle then cruised through the alleys.

    Later, two more patrol cars came by, and I saw the motorcycle twice more that night going through the alleys off my street.

    Gunshots are not unusual around here, but these sounded louder (and closer) than normal.

    Seeing such a quick response made me feel enormously grateful to the police in our neighborhood. I can’t imagine a more difficult or dangerous job — and I encouage everyone to be supportive and appreciative of the officiers who risk their lives to keep us safe.

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