Dear PoP – What do you do when…

Photo from PoPville flickr user hellomarkers!

“Random people drinking in the alley behind my apartment? I live on the first floor of my building, at the back, and my windows are literally eye level with the alley. Generally, it’s very quiet, not a lot of activity. The only cars that come through are typically going to the condos behind me as they are the only folks who have parking spots (that I can tell).

For the last three nights in a row, I’ve come home around 7:00 to the sound of really loud music and several individuals (typically young men, yesterday there was a woman) drinking beer either in or outside of a car. It’s been the same car every time and it has MD tags. I know, I know … I can’t say that they don’t live in the area based only on tags but if they are local, why are they drinking, seemingly on the sly in the alley right behind my house?!?! They don’t live in my building, I’m pretty sure of that and I can only assume when they’re done with the 24 pack of Heineken bottles (the drink of choice) they drive off, obviously a very dangerous move.

I’ve contemplated calling the cops … I’m a single woman, living alone and don’t feel comfortable confronting them myself. Other obvious responses would be to close my windows, leave my place, etc. but I pay to live there and it’s hot outside, meaning open windows is a must in my apt!!! I’m pretty sure none of these people are paying to drink in the alley every night.

I’d appreciate any ideas other readers might have!”

I strongly recommend you call 911. You can be anonymous and when they operator asks your name just say, “I’d rather not give it”. If you call 911 everytime a record will be started and MPD can monitor the situation better.

What do you guys think?

38 Comment

  • This is why we have open container laws. Not sure why you didn’t call the first time it happened. As Liz Lemon would say “Mom up!” Get some of your own authority.

  • Oh Katy Perry. How I love thee. Ditch the zero and get with the hero.

  • CALL 911 and keep calling until the cops come! duh!

  • Everything you describe is perfectly legal in DC, with the possible exception of the possession of open container of alcohol (POCA). Note a POCA is a misdemeanor, so the offenders can simply claim they do not have any ID to avoid any penalty, though they have to pour the beer out. If they were operating a vehicle that would be different of course.

    You might be able to get the building owner to post no trespassing signs, which you could then call to get enforced. Its also possible the alley is public and you have no right to assume it clear of people. Your best bet is probably contacting your local MPD commander using the local MPD listserv, and ask for regular enforcement of that area. MPD will do the harassing for you and the folks will displace elsewhere for a while.

    Welcome to Washington.

    • You mean there’s no law against public drunkenness in DC?

      • Nope, not really. If you are unresponsive (ie passed out) then I think you are declared intoxicated and sent to a drunk tank, but if you are remotely sober and not threatening violence you aren’t taken in, you basically “refuse treatment”. Reference the discussion yesterday about the beating at Petworth, the drunk guy was talked to by police who then went away.

        This is as of a year ago, when I tried to address a roving pack of drunks near me. As long as they didn’t have drinks-in-hand and were not a danger to themselves and others, they are free to proceed. I’d love someone to tell me I am wrong.

        • You’re wrong. Whether or not the police enforce the law will of course vary, but the law is clear.

          § 25-1001. Drinking of alcoholic beverage in public place prohibited; intoxication prohibited.

          (a) Except as provided in subsections (b) and (c) of this section, no person in the District shall drink an alcoholic beverage or possess in an open container an alcoholic beverage in or upon any of the following places:

          (1) A street, alley, park, sidewalk, or parking area;
          (2) A vehicle in or upon any street, alley, park, or parking area;
          (3) A premises not licensed under this title where food or nonalcoholic beverages are sold or entertainment is provided for compensation;
          (4) Any place to which the public is invited and for which a license to sell alcoholic beverages has not been issued under this title;
          (5) Any place to which the public is invited for which a license to sell alcoholic beverages has been issued under this title at a time when the sale of alcoholic beverages on the premises is prohibited by this title or by the regulations promulgated under this title; or
          (6) Any place licensed under a club license at a time when the consumption of the alcoholic beverages on the premises is prohibited by this title or by regulations promulgated under this title.

          (b) Subsection (a)(1) of this section shall not apply if drinking or possession of an alcoholic beverage occurs:

          (1) In or on a structure which projects upon the parking, and which is an integral, structural part, of a private residence, such as a front porch, terrace, bay window, or vault; and
          (2) By, or with the permission of, the owner or resident.

          (c) No person, whether in or on public or private property, shall be intoxicated and endanger the safety of himself, herself, or any other person or property.

          • That’s all as I figured it would be, ie POCA, which people are adept at avoiding. I think the issue is the meaning of the word ‘intoxicated’. When I went through the issue in 4D last year MPD defined intoxicated as being passed out basically. Again, if the drunk is doing something dumb or threatening then that changes stuff as well.

            And POCA is still a misdemeanor, so you just say you don’t have ID and pour out the beer. Right?

          • —I love this part:
            (b) Subsection (a)(1) of this section shall not apply if drinking or possession of an alcoholic beverage occurs:
            (1) In or on a structure which projects upon the parking, and which is an integral, structural part, of a private residence, ***such as a front porch, terrace, bay window, or vault***;

            –Nothing like getting legally trashed in your vault

        • Oops. I totally misread what you said. You’re right that they can’t arrest someone for drunkenness. They can stick you in the drunk tank though.

          § 24-604. Public intoxication; confidential records.

          (a) Except as otherwise provided in subsection (b) of this section, any person who is intoxicated in public: (1) may be taken or sent to his home or to a public or private health facility; or (2) if not taken or sent to his home or such facility under clause (1) of this subsection, shall be taken to a detoxification center, by the Mayor. Reasonable measures may be taken to ascertain that public transportation used for such purposes shall be paid for by such person in advance. Any intoxicated person may voluntarily come to a detoxification center for medical attention. The medical officer in charge of a detoxification center shall have the authority to determine whether a person shall be admitted to such center as a patient, or whether he should be referred to another health facility. The medical officer in charge of such center shall have the authority to require any person admitted as a patient under this subsection to remain at such center until he is sober and no longer incapacitated, but in any event no longer than 72 hours after his admission as a patient. If the medical officer concludes that such person should receive treatment at a different facility, he shall arrange for such treatment and for transportation to that facility. A detoxification center may provide medical services to a person who is not admitted as a patient. A patient in a detoxification center shall be encouraged to consent to an intensive diagnosis for alcoholism and to treatment at the inpatient and outpatient facilities authorized in § 24-603(a).

          • “and POCA is still a misdemeanor, so you just say you don’t have ID and pour out the beer. Right?”

            I guess it depends on whether you piss off the cop, just like woith most nuisance laws.

    • How does it work to say you have no ID and avoid penalty? What would the penalty if you said you have an ID? This is only for misdemeanor offenses?

      • ah

        The theory is you give them a false name/address, and they have no way to verify it. Then you toss the citation and they can’t track you down.

        • Pretty sure giving flase info to a police officer would elevate this from a mere misdomeanor to a full blown felony.

  • Call the cops every single time you see them. Most of the time people want a place to hang out where they won’t be bothered. As long as no one bothers them, they’ll continue to hang out.

    Up to you…

  • You should call the cops but don’t call 911. It’s not an emergency.

    If you know the local, non-emergency number, then call that. Otherwise call 311.

    It’s definitely not worth your trouble to confront them.

    • ah

      311 can’t do jack about crimes. Call 911 and tell them it’s not an emergency.

    • We’ve discussed this at length before–if a police office is required to come to the scene, 311 will just patch you into 911.

      But Badger is partially right: don’t confront them! I live next to aggressive neighbors, confronted them and regretted it. Play is safe and call 911 or 311.

      Good luck!

  • Confront them with a shotgun leveled at the case of beer.

  • You should relax and let people enjoy themselves if they aren’t a threat or a nuisance to you. Simply seeing them isn’t really a nuisance or a threat. Are they disturbing sleep at late hours? Are they throwing bottles? Are they fighting? Harassing? Or are they simply hanging out and drinking some beers and listening to music at a decent volume? If it’s the latter, I’d say take a chill pill and let people be.

    • Bad advice. Drinking in an alley is not acceptable. It’s even illegal. Good to nib activity like this in the bud before draking turns into something more serious.

  • a couple of years back, DC government consolidated everything down to two phone numbers:

    • Call 9-1-1 for ALL emergency and non-emergency calls for police, fire, or ambulance.

    • Call 3-1-1 to reach any other DC service or agency.

    Granted, DC’s use of 9-1-1 for emergency and non-emergency calls is a bit unique…

  • We had this going on in our alley in Adams Morgan…younguns from Maryland who would park in someone’s condo parking spot. Thought they had found a safe place to party it up before hitting 18th Street. Blasting the car stereo, breaking bottles, one time they decided to fire shots in the air. I walked past them once on the way into the building (I was in a middle unit, they couldn’t tell which one) and said, hey guys, you might not know this, but these spots are for residents only and the police have already been called. They skeedaddled out of there, tires squealing. You should definitely call the police before they get MORE rowdy or something bloody happens.
    Now, the old vets who would lean up against our building drinking because it was shadier than their hosts’ crummy garbage can parking area, they would watch the alley, report suspicious behavior and weren’t too bad…except the one loud foul mouthed crazy guy. And they would leave their butts and empties and battered chairs behind. Finally got rid of them when their friend died. I’ll never understand why people who could sit around and be decrepit anywhere they choose would spend 20 years of their sunset years in an alley in DC, but that was their choice. Sad. Me at least I’d be in an alley in Key West – or something!

  • Thanks to everyone for responding. I have wanted to call the cops but as a former public defender who used to DEFEND people for stupid crap like this, I feel torn. NIMBY is a powerful, powerful thing, even for the most libertarian among us.
    To answer someone’s question, it’s not just people minding their own business realxing with a few beers, playing music at a decent volume…it’s people who don’t lvie in the building (or possibly the area at all) who play VERY LOUD music for hours, drink in the car, and then drive away.
    It’s similar to the Adams Morgan poster, except without the guns. When that happens, 911 will be dialed faster than you can say go. For now though, I’ll take the advice and call 311/contact MPD to get more patrols.

    Thanks to PoP and y’all for the advice and push to “mom up” and call the po.

  • don’t confront. call 911.

  • POCA laws, for all their vagueness on the definition of “parking”, are pretty clear. I generally don’t do POCA lockups unless the individual is obnoxious, they break the unspoken rule of “Officer asks you to dump and move on and you move”, or if the area is someplace my supervisors ask me to keep up enforcement. POCAs usually don’t go to court because most arestees Elect to Forfeit and pay out a bond.

    “Drunk in Public” is technically a crime when a person is intoxicated to the point that they’re a danger to themselves. However MPD along with most organizations nowadays choose to treat it as a public health issue and not a criminal issue. I’ve seen one “Drunk in Public” lockup so far in my career, so you know how often its enforced. Most of the time Officers choose to leave drunks be, or call the ambulance and have them car the drunks away. If you lock them up, most of the time they start complaining of some B.S. ailment and you have to take two officers off the street to babysit them while they wait to get treated at the hospital.

    As for the original post, call and report it. If they don’t live there, they don’t belong there. I’ve seen it time and time again that if you let these kind of people hang out, they’ll start causing mischeif.

    • Can you also confirm that MPD is also just often outnumbered by these sorts of folks? That basically only a small percentage of calls about these folks would get responded to, as MPD officers have other calls to respond to as well? I very much appreciate your insight, thanks!

      Also, what’s your statement on the FOP endorsement of Gray? (sticks microphone in face)

  • You live in Columbia Heights dont you?

  • Or you could just leave them alone. They aren’t harming anyone.7:00 is way too early to complain about noise too.

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