Dear PoP – Sometimes Life is Beautiful, Sometimes a Little Less So Edition

Don’t Pee On The Wall People!, originally uploaded by jsnowy2768.

“So, this is a “how to get along” question…I’m new to Petworth (2.5 mos), moved from Virginia and am enjoying learning my way around (thanks to the many contributors). I wasn’t naive when I bought my place (row house on an alley), but I’m having trouble understanding something going on in my alley. I live in a safe-ish area and as the days have gone by, I’m learning the patterns of foot traffic. A number of times (six I’ve witnessed before this weekend), people piss on my house, on my fence, etc. day, night, drunk or not (as far as I can tell). I’ve been pretty appalled, but have said nothing to the offender (as I’m kind of in hidden from view when I’ve seen it happening being behind my fence; also, I’m a woman living alone). This past weekend as the weather was nice and my neighbors had people over to hang on the front porch, I saw that the friends also use the alley as their port-a-john. I have no idea why they are not using the toilet in the house…So, my question is, how do I handle this? As my neighbors’ friends are not the only offenders, not to mention that I DON”T want to have that conversation with them (b/c no one should have to), how do I go about addressing/resolving this situation? Lights won’t make a difference as there are three street lights within arm’s length of my house and in alley. A flood light won’t bring any more light to the offense. Seriously, has anyone else had a problem that wasn’t really a safety issue but more of a (gross) nuisance and how did you resolve?”

Holy cow, what a brutal situation. I’m super curious to hear what the readers think because I’m not sure exactly what I’d do. But this is definitely unacceptable. I’d like to think I’d yell, “Hey, Oh, Don’t Do That There!!!”. I’m afraid you may need to have that uncomfortable conversation with the neighbors. Because, really, it seems like the only other alternative is to call the cops and the cops are not likely to get there in time. Maybe you could put a sign up that says “Not a Toilet”, or something like that. What do you think about this idea – talk to the neighbors but say something like “hey, I need your advice. I’ve been noticing lots of folks pissing in the alley, do you have any suggestions on how we can remedy the situation?”. In a really polite way of course. Yeah, that’s what I’d do. And if it still persists, I’d call the cops if it is a regular occurrence. Any other ideas?

Ed. Note: I found this photo on Flickr which says, “Do not urinate, fine 3,000 francs”.

63 Comment

  • I recommend just yelling out the door and embarrassing the hell out of them. They may not know somebody is living in your house now and observing their disgusting activities. I would call the cops and report the neighbors. Seriously. You should not have to put up with that.

  • I’m interested to hear what other readers have to say about this. This is an age-old problem. There is surviving Roman Graffiti (in Latin) which basically says “stop pissing here or your [penis] will fall off.”

    My first inclination would be to add motion-sensitive light, and perhaps a motion-triggered CCTV camera as well. I would imagine that these urinaters might think twice between whipping it out if they think that they are being recorded.

    For the time being I would be very discrete and not call the cops.

  • I think I’d go with the camera, as well as a sign or something letting them know that they are being recorded and that you’ll submit the video to the police (not necessarily true, but may scare them)… I wonder if there exists some sort of pepper thingy you can spray around such that all their sensitive parts will burn with it.

  • electric fence

  • … Or she could send the photos to PoP??

  • We added a motion detection light to our alley, a notorious public urinal, to no avail. It actually seemed to help them write their names in pee on dark snowy evenings.

  • Post a sign suggesting that they pee on the neighbor’s house.

  • Unless the neighbor is a thug (he/she is an asshole), I would tell him something like “Look, we are neighbors now and I’d really appreciate you could make sure your frineds pee on the fence of the neighbor on the other side, not mine.”

    As for the ones that are not his friends, I would certainly install a flood light. Camera would seem like a bit of overkill as an immediate measure. And do call the cops – they might, if you are lucky, start driving through there every now and then at least.

  • Usually people who urinate on people’s fences and houses are not the type of people to react positively to being called out on their behavior, no matter how tactful you are (and why you would need to be tactful about it is sad in and of itself). So plase be careful. I’d consider going to your MPD distrct, connceting with the officers who work in your area and telling them about the issue and asking them to frequent the area and take action.

  • Get an attack dog.

  • You need to make him an offer he can’t refuse.

    Then he wakes up with a severed horse’s penis on his pillow.

  • Maybe just a sign that says electric fence?

  • I have known people who had this problem, and they solved it by doing two things: 1) putting up a sign and 2) rigging up a wire to a car battery along the length of the fence/wall essentially making an electric fence. My only other suggestion is to get an attack dog.

  • I was in the basement of my house and some guy was taking a leak right in between my house and my nieghbors (where the meter is read) and we could see him right through our window. So I just ran up to the window and banged on it and screamed “WE CAN SEE YOU!!!” I haven’t seen him take a leak there since.

  • Take a big dump on their porch.
    That’ll show ’em!

  • Get a megaphone and yell at any pissers you catch. A recording of a loud siren might also be of use.

    I used to live in Chicago near wrigley field and this was a problem for everyone because of all the drunkards after games not wanting to wait for a restroom. It really is more than a nuisance–the acid in urine can eat stone and brick eventually and lead to structural weaknesses.

    Not sure what to do about the friends, except give them a tour of the house and be sure to point out the restroom. Or get different friends.

  • Wow, this would drive me crazy. First of all I have to say it’s not normal that everyone in Petworth gets their houses peed on, so no need to just put up with it and think it’s part of urban living. I think your best bet is motion detector lights as other people have suggested. Also if people are up to no good in your alley (using drugs or drinking in public) call the police – every time you see them.

    I would NOT confront them. I had a neighbor who hired a guy down the street to help on a remodeling job, and he stole stuff from the house. My neighbor was furious with him, fired him, told him off. Now the guy regularly breaks into and vandalizes his truck. He could call the police, but he never actually sees it happening, and all his buddies know who my neighbor is. My neighbor figures it would just get worse. Just a bad situation to avoid getting into!

  • this is a problem all over the world. in amsterdam in certain areas there are metal plates bolted to walls below waist level to protect the stone and brick from being eroded.

    see the bottom of this page

  • The urinators (in Shaw at least) have no shame and (most) do not react to being called out…I’ve done it numerous times and they either ignore me, curse at me, or a couple have said “I have to pee!!” like that’s a legitimate excuse…most of our urinators come from a group that hangs on 7th Street all day and need a bathroom break once in a while…if the businesses and/or police could keep them from loitering all day that might help…

    If anyone has had real success is solving this problem I’d love to hear it…

  • paintball gun?

  • Once again, London is way ahead of the curve in providing convenient and sanitary outdoor relief stations. Such a civilized remedy to the wanton incontinence that’s found in DC.

  • Ooh, maybe you could install a sheet of plexiglas at an angle to your wall. Anyone tries to piss on it, they’ll just get splash back.

  • I have witnessed this in our alley, but it is not a regular occurance. The one time I caught a drunk dude in the act, I politely stated “Please, sir, do not pee in my alley.” He cussed, pulled his pants up, and moved on. We have a big fence, so I feel pretty safe politely asking folks to take it elsewhere.

    I’ve also used this tactic with litterers (“Whoops! I think you dropped something!”) but with less success.

  • Talk to the neighbor. That’s inexcusable on his part, and if you establish in your first few months of residency that you’ll knowingly put up with that sort of behavior from his guests, there’s no reason they will ever change. At least that should stop their friends, and if it doesn’t, you’ll have a solid basis to file a trespass complaint.

    The other pissers, you probably just have to deal with. Maybe put out a big cat litter box that says “If you must pee, pee here.”

  • Get the garden hose out, and give a good soaking to the next person you catch peeing. “I don’t like you wetting my property. Do you like me soaking yours?”

    Probably not the safest approach, but I suspect it will make them think twice next time.

  • This drives me nuts. I see people peeing all the time in the alley behind our house. Haven’t these people ever heard of holding it??

  • Can’t wait till summer gets here – that back alley is going to smell fantastic! Welcome to Petworth.

  • On the bright side, it’s not nearly as horrifying as people defecating in treeboxes and between parked cars.

  • Tough situation. I would talk to the neighbors and see what they think. Some of the veterans of the block may have a solution at hand. I’ve tried calling out drug users in Blagden Alley, and they leave, but they always come back.

    As for DC – there are not nearly enough public facilities. I suggest we adopt what Philadelphia is testing (yes, we can learn something from philly).

    One other thing we can and should adopt from Philly: BYOB Restaurants. MY GOD Do I miss eating a three course meal at a top notch restaurant , with a date, for less than 80 bucks because we brought our own wine/tequila/six pack.

    Also, affordability and foot traffic on the weekends. Wait, OK, I guess Philly is pretty sweet too (to use POP parlance).

  • saf

    I have, more than once, walked out my back door to stop people from walking down my back stairs to pee (or worse) underneath my house. They are always rather abashed that someone actually calls them out, but they do head off elsewhere.

    It’s right up there with littering and spitting – things your mama should have taught you not to do.

  • How about keeping a pot of water on hand to throw on them might also be effective. Boiling water would be more effective, but there may not be time to heat it up.

  • Metro was going to roll out self-cleaning bathrooms in stations downtown, but the model they were testing wasn’t ADA compliant. Then 9/11 happened and suddenly every toilet, trashcan, and recycling bin became a terrorist target.

    How about a nice low-tech solution, like a paintbucket and a corncob tied to a nail?

  • Welcome to DC. Trash cans and toilets are entirely optional here. Ever wonder how the other half lives? Now you know… But you do get a good giggle when Fenty and Bowser and Crew refer to DC as “cosmopolitan”.

    My neighbor, a dear sweet old woman who also lives on the alley, keeps a can of military-style mace next to her door, and gleefully declares “I aim for their privates!”

  • Ahh the age old problem…don’t worry it can always be worse…I don’t know if its the same crew Mr Q talks about on 7th but we have much the same problem in our nearby alley…sometimes they even drop a deuce complete with rags, paper, clothes, whatever they used right there…talk about a filthy cleanup..bleach masks and a shovel..even been threatened by a couple young wanna be thugs who told they couldn’t piss on our house “this isn’t the suburbs move back to where you came from!” huh? I don’t know what the solution is…confrontation sometimes, put the hose on them, maybe get a cop to god forbid walk a beat(or Segway or Mountain Bike) and crack down on these quality of life crimes. But I have never seen a cop on foot in Shaw, Petworth, Columbia Heights etc…strangely enough I see them on bikes and Segways in Foggy bottom, Gtown. hmm weird..

  • We have a separate entrance to our basement that is directly under the stairs to our front door (as do all of the homes on our block). About 6 months ago, someone began smoking crack in that area because it’s sheltered from the street (13th Street). They did the same to some of our neighbors. We’d find a pile of used matchbooks and the pieces of a ballpoint pen. This grew in frequency until it was happening one or two times a day. This person (or people) could get in and out in under 45 seconds — we know because we busted them twice. Confronting them from behind a locked door didn’t seem to do the trick, but calling the cops did. The cops got there too late but after they stood in our yard for 20 minutes, the word got out on the street that it was no longer safe to smoke crack at our house. We haven’t had another incident in over a month. This approach may not work with pissing in an alley, but it’s worth a shot. But talk to your neighbor w/ the pissing friends before you call the cops on those friends.

  • saf

    C – I always want to say “I’ve lived here longer than you’ve been alive.” Sometimes I do.

    And I’ve seen the cops here, some even on foot, bike, and segway. They just don’t stop.

  • Maybe she should just speak to her neighbors? Criminy, people, is this entire blog not about making our hood more neighborly and working against urban atomism? She owns the house, so having a relationship with neighbors is an investment in the neighborhood.

    Be polite about it, say hello, bring them cookies or something as an icebreaker, talk about the weather, and just say “hey, can I request something? I know i’m new and i feel weird about having to ask this, but do you think you can ask your friends to not pee in the alley? i think other people take it as a signal that it’s ok, so random strangers are peeing all over my place.”

    then put up a sign for other people “Please don’t pee here – children are watching!” or something funny to deter the randoms who smell pee so figure it’s a cool place to deposit the last few rounds of beer.

  • I find that an airhorn, the $20 kind you can buy at any hardware store and that are typically used on boats, works great. Its especially good if you time it right when they are zipping back up. Freaks the hell out of them.

  • Another idea to deter people: paint a sweet mural at waist level or below extolling Obama’s victory. no one in Petworth will pee on that!

  • Can people stop peeing in alleys? YES WE CAN!

  • Saf – thats a good line I think the subtlety may have been lost on these guys though..the convo ended with “go f&ck yourself” from them..and as there were 3 of them and just 2 of us I was preparing for it to escalate to a fight..
    thats the sad thing I know how easy it is to cover a ton of ground on said bike/Segway. It seems like a no brainer to have the occasional cop ride a “beat” through the streets and alleys of our various hoods. But I guess its hard to play on your phone/laptop while riding…much easier to sit in your parked cruiser

  • My apartment is also on an alley, but I’m at 12th & MassAve – I also have this problem! The first day I moved in – back in June, my mom and I were unpacking all of my stuff, and this guy came up, unzipped, saw my mom in the kitchen window and got really freaked out. Now that I have curtains up, people are peeing unabashedly (almost everytime I peek out my curtains, something illegal is taking place). I’m getting to the point where I’m going to set up a web cam (it doesn’t have to be connected to anything) with a big sign that states they are being monitored… But a) I’m not sure what to say and b) I’m afraid they will smash my windows (at least I have bars on the windows, but what if they pee in my apartment!).

    The crime in general seems to be getting worse – there were 7 or more gunshots in the alley this past weekend, and when I looked out my *open* window 5 minutes later, there were cops up and down the alley and they asked if I heard gunshots and told me to close my windows. I did end up e-mailing my landlord about the recent spike in crime, and he is going to write to the police commissioner and mayor. I’ve lived here for 9 months and I lived in Philly for the previous 5 years, so I am used to a city life, but come on! It’s getting a little ridiculous!

  • Mal, I’d DEFINITELY set up a web cam (that works) with signs in the alley. “people kill people” platitudes aside, you don’t have a people problem, you have an environment problem. change the environment, the bad behavior relocates.

  • Well stated, Oregonian. I will do that tonight! I am also sick of the crack smoking, littering, shootings… I’ll let you know what happens, and if you don’t hear from me, well, it was nice commenting with you all 😡

  • you should probably just move back to virginia.

  • There’s a great argument posited by economic theorists about the utility of relocating crime. If there are 20 cars on a street, and five have clubs on the steering wheel, crime is relocated (not reduced) to the cars without clubs. However, if you install lojack on some, and advertise the fact (this block is protected by lojack, or whatever), crime is reduced because the of getting caught is dispersed among all the vehicles.

    A webcam helps you out, but not your block. Getting your neighbors invovled will relocate the crime away from your block, which is probably the best course of action for this situation. just my two cents.

  • DC: Home Ruled, not House Trained!

    If it’s any consolation, people sh*t in public places in the suburbs, too. My local MoCo park occasionally is anointed by homeless guys passing through. Not a big deal until the pooch finds it, at which point it’s far too late. (In the event you experience this, your next stop should either be the groomer or the pound, because that’s a dog you want no part until the stink is gone.)

  • call the police and get to know who your commander is and who works the beat, so they can be on the look out. It’s illegal to pee out in the open and it carries a fine. At the last police meeting, the cops repeated over and over that they want to hear these complaints and know what’s going on. If you don’t complain to them, then don’t expect it to end, unless you want to try some of the childish antics people have posted here.

  • Oh yeah, call the police. Why didn’t anyone else think of that? (you new to town, Anon 4:46?)

  • Welcome to the big bad city. Please don’t waste our tax dollars by calling out Roscoe Coltrain and company when they could be better suited.. uhh I dunno.. stopping all the shootings and robberies.

  • Nah, Oregonian….

    It’s pretty clearly the Latinos who are peeing around these parts. I am not sure your mural idea will work because not all Latinos say “Obamanos”

  • Ok you live in DC now- show your balls. Talk to them. Be decent, not an asshole, and walk away if they get angry. People don’t hate you if you don’t act superior to them OR kiss their asses, in these situations.

    If that doesn’t work, air horn.

  • p.s. It’s true, it happens all over the world. Germany is full of piss. People just throw a drink at the pisser, yell something equivalent to, “stop it, assface,” and keep walking by.

  • Oh if this was my only problem. I have the local “youth” using the back stairs under my porch to turn tricks – that right, full on congress. Not to worry, they are practicing safe sex – how do I know you ask? They leave their spent condoms. I’ll take piss anyday.

  • you should probably just move back to virginia.

    And you need to attach a username to that comment before you attack people for no reason. There is no problem with wanting safety wherever you live.

    I use the back basement entrance to get to my place, but walk to it from the front of the house because I refuse to use that alley. There usually aren’t any problems in that alley, but one Saturday night I came home and found a bunch of old men screaming, cursing and shooting craps. I called the police (I don’t need to come home to that mess!), but the landlord seemed to be used to it, with her “Oh, they come here from time to time” response. Can’t they shoot craps at home?! Thank god I don’t use the actual alley, or I would’ve had to walk past them to get home! Ugh!

    I agree that you should put up motion-detecting lights, and if it doesn’t deter them call the police. Don’t let these people take advantage of you and your house.

  • Take two, this time closing the “blockquote” section:

    you should probably just move back to virginia.

    And you need to attach a username to that comment before you attack people for no reason. There is no problem with wanting safety wherever you live.

    I use the back basement entrance to get to my place, but walk to it from the front of the house because I refuse to use that alley. There usually aren’t any problems in that alley, but one Saturday night I came home and found a bunch of old men screaming, cursing and shooting craps. I called the police (I don’t need to come home to that mess!), but the landlord seemed to be used to it, with her “Oh, they come here from time to time” response. Can’t they shoot craps at home?! Thank god I don’t use the actual alley, or I would’ve had to walk past them to get home! Ugh!

    I agree that you should put up motion-detecting lights, and if it doesn’t deter them call the police. Don’t let these people take advantage of you and your house.

  • Thank you all for your responses, I’m the one with question. For the very few unhelpful (negative) posters, here’s hoping the Golden Rule works.

    FYI, I will not call the police for this, but it’s a legitimate suggestion and reminds me that I should go to my ANC meetings and learn who the community leaders and participants are. I also don’t think it’s a bad idea to have motion detector lights, but it’s a well traveled (and already well-lit) alley and a light would be on more than off. To be honest, I’ll have to give it more thought. As far as talking to the neighbors, I will have to consider that as well. I really, really don’t want my 2nd conversation with these folks to be around this issue – WAY too awkward, and too many players in and out of the place. Maybe we just need a few more plesantries between us under our belts. And to the person who said to grow balls,..If I had them, I don’t imagine I would have been writing this in the first place, but thanks anyway.

    Sincerely, thank you for your comments and suggestions. While I won’t act immediately, I know this situation is not unique. Your comments give me a lot to think about.

  • I hate native Washingtonians with a passion.

    I have met maybe, I dunno, let’s think here… I met 4 that I can name who are decent people. The other 50 or so are jackasses.

    Something happened to them when Barry was mayor and it turned them into total dicks to everyone they meet.

    As one of my elderly neighbors told me, “I’m NOT from here, I’m from North Carolina, we learned manners growing up.”

    If you were born here in the 60s-70s I wish you’d live someplace else.

    let the flame war begin (or if it doesn’t I’ll accept that everyone agrees with me)

  • I agree with neener. The only thing worse than native Washingtonians are people who aren’t native Washingtonians.

  • Well said Neener. The lack of manners and civility are what may drive DC back to a land of total poverty (outside the federal enclaves of course).

  • Generally speaking I think that people all over have lost a sense of what you do in private and what is OK in public.

    Motion detector lights may be a good first step, but considering some of what I have seen I don’t know. 2 stores that still make me shake my head:

    1. A number of years ago I was walking up Second St. near Union Station. There was a guy urinating on a tree. Sounds not so bad until you realize the tree was between the street and the sidewalk. He seemed concerned that no one walking on the sidewalk see anything but wasn’t so much concerned by the drivers and walkers on the other side. This was a young guy and didn’t look to be mental.

    2. The mental guy/woman (hard to tell with the clothes) who while standing under cover of one of the glassed in bus stations, pulled down their undies bent forward at the waist and let loose a stream that went behind them in an arc…. this on the cornier of PA and 8th SE. At evening rush hour.

  • and to make it clear, I’m from Maryland. But when I was a kid in the 60s-70s we really were taught manners like not unzipping in public.

    yesterday I was driving in southwest when I saw two older teenagers having sex on a side street around 4pm. I called the police because I wasn’t sure what I was seeing at first, but they were both pretty angry that I interrupted them. By their reactions they weren’t out of it drunk or high.

    That fueled my anger above.

    I have African-American friends from New York City and from the South who have real problems with this kind of behavior as being a local DC thing.

  • Good luck. My only suggestion is that it will likely be easier for you to develop a fondness for urination than it will be to get them to stop doing it.

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