Dear PoPville – Anyway to Resolve This Situation Without Being “That Guy”?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Rukasu1

“Dear PoP,

I have a quick question regarding noise complaints. I live on a very noisy block, which comes from two sources. A group of kids play craps using the streetlight directly in front of my house, and an older drunk neighbor (about 50) two houses away who buys alcohol for these kids and goes around yelling “I’m getting it in” all damn night long.

These kids are nice enough, but they trash my yard and make way too much noise. I’ve asked them to move, which means they go down one house or directly across the street. This works slightly better for me, but I’m just making it my other neighbors’ problem.

The police recommended I call the cops every time I hear them. However, I’m not sure I want to be known as “that guy.” Should I give them some ground rules along the line of calling the cops every time I hear them after 10? Or should I just start calling the cops? Any advice or older posts would be much appreciated.”

I’d say if they are willing to listen – then give them some ground rules. Set a clear hour if possible like 10 or 11pm (side question what time do you think people should start being quiet at night?). If they then don’t follow the ground rules – you really will have only two options – you can become “that guy” or try to block out the noise. It’s a shitty situation – but if you truly can’t sleep and/or it is seriously affecting your quality of life – I’d probably recommend becoming “that guy”.

So yes we realize we live in a city but in my opinion, living in a neighborhood on a side street is not the same as living on 18th St, NW in Adams Morgan. If you live on a side street in a neighborhood with families – what do you think is a reasonable time to expect people to quiet during the week – 10pm, 11pm, midnight?

If you faced the situation above – how would you deal with it in hopes of maintaining positive relations with the noisy neighbors? (Final side note – I’m assuming the kids are 21 years old – would you change your advice if these kids are under 21 years old?)

91 Comment

  • We have a party house at the end of our block. They are never quiet and have no respect for anyone. We call the cops on them all the time. Googled their address and found that there is an arrest there once or twice a year. So it looks like they are already used to it. Hopefully the littering and noice laws will help with that this summer. They’ll need to find another alley to deal from.

    They are “Those” assholes.

    • Please, do everyone a favor and buy earplugs!!! I sleep with them every night and, facing u street, sleep like a baby.

      • It’s a sad day when you give up on enforcing your right to quiet enjoyment of your dwelling.

    • And right out of the box, we have the right answer. Spot on.

      It always perplexes me how people who have been shown no regard or respect as neighbors are nonetheless worried about being “that guy.” Nope, the kids doing this are “those a-holes.” You always should presume and default to mutual respect with neighbors you’ve yet to meet, but there is a point when that presumption can be put aside and you can realize that no matter what you do, these kids are not going to respect you. From what’s described here, OP long ago reached that point.

      • Young adults somethings struggle internally with this topic because we were once the younger loud kids that we are now complaining about.

        Nobody wants to be the crotchety old guy shouting from the window… And add in DC youths propensity for violence and you have Dear PoPville # 1,000,000

        • Yeah, sure … I was an a-hole at times when I was a kid, too. I respect that angle. Growing up gives you that perspective. But (a) usually what I was doing wasn’t illegal and/or in a densely populated area; (b) if a crotchety adult told me to shut up or stop what I was doing, I stopped and didn’t do it again; and (c) neither I nor any of my friends were carrying guns.

          I wish that it were easier in DC to become the crotchety old guy and just continue a natural life cycle where I become the guy chiding somebody for the same stuff that I once did and knew that someday they’d be the crotchety ones and, at the end of the day, we all find a happy place that rarely has a need to involve the cops. But I always feel pre-empted from becoming crotchety because I know I risk my own life and limb to do so. These aren’t the same adversaries I was in my youth. And I sure as hell am not going to test their limits when I can call the cops to do it for me.

        • You know what, though? When we were kids, old guys would call the cops. So you went somewhere a bit more remote to smoke dope, play craps, scream all night, or whatever.

          Kids can do whatever the Hell they want, but if they’re in my alley, I’m calling the cops and reporting them. They’re going to do it; but I’m going to make my alley a really shitty option for them.

          • Good point. Even in my suburban-to-rural youth, if you went out and TP’d someone’s front yard, they’d call the cops on your ass post-haste. And forget about getting caught in the middle of a field underage drinking. Here, there’s no consequence at all unless the cops get these kids. No parental supervision, neighbors who are either afraid or too worried about being “bad gentrifiers” to act in loco parentis, and 97% of the calls to the cops result in nothing.

  • I am not going to sit back idly and let our party-loving neighbors be slandered! Have some freakin’ respect y’all, all around.

  • In my experience, you can call the cops every night but they won’t bother responding to something like a noise complaint. In fact, the dispatcher likely won’t even bother forwarding your report.

    So at least try to work something out with the kids because it’s not likely the police will work anything out for you.

    • Incorrect. All calls receive a response. It is not up to the dispatcher to decide which calls get a response. it is not up to the individual officer to decide if he/she will respond.

      To reiterate: All calls will receive a response from MPD. Some sooner than others of course.

      • This is not true. I’ve called the police 3 times in DC: once for kids riding a motorscooter through Girard park, once for men openly selling drugs in girard park, and once for watching 4 men standing around two dogs fighting while exchanging money. The police never showed up in all three cases (after waiting around for an hour all three times).

      • thats simply not true.

        • LOL at this.

          Cops do not always follow “protocol”. They may dispatch someone but that doesn’t mean the officer will do anything. It is up to the individual officer, if they are dispatched to a “street drug deal” in progress they know by time they get there, nothing will be going on, so they just continue eating donuts or whatever stereotypical thing they do in their idle time.

          Except Pujols, he is awesome.

    • Sounds like you need to attend more community meetings. Our 1D cops are on top of everything. Public meetings make people more accountable.

  • sorry bro, but these are not kids. 21 = man. i say keep calling the cops. btw dice games are super dangerous.

    leave a dice game with a fortune walkin’ … you’re a walkin’ coffin. – nas

    • So you’ve decided that rolling dice is dangerous because of a rapper said so?

      Do you also think that black people in compton turn into dobermans because of Snoop Dogg’s video?

      • Oh, please.

        Not every bunch of 21 year old guys playing craps (and smoking dope) is going to result in a shooting. But if it happens, that’s where it’s going to happen.

      • Ohy honey, no one ever explained the difference between literal and figurative to you, did they?

        -100 for poor counterpoint.

        • pennyworth

          i would like to assure you all that i am indeed serious. i happen to be young, black, male and from this area. dice games are extremely dangerous. for you outsiders from … let’s say oregon or missouri, it may seem silly, but the lyrics are based on true experiences. anytime money is changing hands, there’s a real possibility of violence … especially with gambling. im actually a bit upset that i need to explain this.

          • I agree with you. My response was to the person whom I responded to, “Anon”, not you. I was mocking their overly simplistic counter argument to your point.

  • Fudge the noise complaint with what you perceived to be a a threat and a deadly weapon. It’s time normal people take back these streets and alleys. Don’t cave to assholes. Works every time, and they soon get the message.

    • I wouldn’t encourage lying to the police or to 911. This will only frustrate law enforcement and affects the priorities of other calls to 911.

      If the response from MPD is not timely or doesn’t seem to improve the situation, email your local PSA Lieutenant or Commander and voice your concerns. If that doesn’t work, try your council member, get your ANC member involved. All of these email addresses and phone numbers are on the MPD website.

      Lying to the police intentionally doesn’t solve anything.

    • agreed…give an inch and they will take mile after mile from you.

  • A classic PoP dilemma: earnest early gentrifier wants both to fit in and to enjoy the peaceful enjoyment of his or her house — in an urban black culture which has a broad tolerance of public intrusions.

    Me, I have the basic conviction that a fair, ethical solution can be figured out. I think it’s reasonable to expect noise to abate after a certain time. I believe it’s fair and neighborly to propose such a time to anyone who is coming close to what some could consider a late time. After that a cutoff time — the specific time is a different question — it’s fair to expect the noisy people to stop or deal with the police.

    Explain that you’re being inconvenienced in your own home, regularly. Say that you regret to spoil their fun. Then say that there needs to be some kind of change. Propose they “take it inside” after a certain time. If they refuse, then tell them frankly that you’re trying to be neighborly — that the police can enforce ordinances, but that you’d rather not involve them. For the first time or two they violate your agreement — if you reach one — come out and remind them of the hour. If they continue to disregard your request, then start calling the police every time.

    • bfinpetworth

      I once, as a manager, instructed a group of employees playing loud music in the office parking lot to “take it out back.” I subsequently received a formal reprimand from senior management because the employees perceived the term “it” to have racial overtones. Ugh.

    • “in an urban black culture which has a broad tolerance of public intrusions.”

      This is a totally racist comment. The idea that white people are gentrifiers and all black people in cities are loud, disrespectful and ghetto. I have many black neighbors (as many of us do) and mine complain bitterly about the trash ruining our streets. They don’t “tolerate public intrusions.” They hate that sh*t, want it to stop, and call the police!

  • I’m not sure there’s a moral reason to give a warning. Who are these kids anyway? Are they neighbors? They’re prob just standard indolent ragamuffins a la newsies minus the dance numbers plus a chance they might throw a rock through your window or worse.

    The kids are drinking in public. That’s against the law. Call the cops and let them handle the risk you’d be taking in confronting them even with a forgiving attitude. I don’t know about you, but I don’t always have the time or energy to deal with BS.

  • Call the cops. If they’re gambling, and drinking, someone will come by at some point, depending on the call load. Throw the smoking of drugs in there and the call gets bumped to a drug complaint, which might get the Tac units interested.

    People can be as loud as they want until 10pm, which is when the disorderly statutes for noise at night kick in. Before 10pm, we can ask for them to keep it down, but we’re impotent.

    If you don’t get a decent response, contact the Lt./Cpt./Cmdr. of the area.

    As to whether or not you’ll be known as “that guy”, if you’re a new guy and the street is mostly long-time residents, you’re already “that guy” regardless of whether or not you called. The same goes if you’re white and the street is mostly African-American.

    As for PoP’a comment, “I’d say if they are willing to listen – then give them some ground rules.”, you can certainly try that, and as long as you don’t come off too nebbishy and ask them to take it to an alley or something, there’s an off-hand chance they might listen. More likely, they’ll laugh at you when you leave because you’ll be considered an outsider and since they’ve been doing that stuff on the block forever, that it somehow makes it ok.

  • Hire the guy with the BB gun from 11th & Park.

  • I let kids play craps in my alley for a long time. I didn’t like them back there, but I also didn’t want to be “that guy.” Then, before I knew it, there were two dead bodies within a block of my house.

    Call the cops, especially after 10:00. The cops I have met will tell you to do the same.

    • I should add that everbody on my block knows those craps games attracted the same kids who did the drug dealing, which led to the killings. Craps games seem innocent enough, but in most cases, they are just one or two degrees away from serious crimes. You don’t want that happening near your house. Call the cops.

      • Most cases, crap games are a couple of degrees from serious crimes? Are you serious? LOL

        • Don’t you remember “Snot Boogie” from the very first scene in The Wire? 🙂

        • YepL2EZ. Get a bunch of drunk gun toting drug dealers and add in one guy losing all his re-up money…

  • If you confront these dudes you also risk having your home, car or family messed with. Not worth it. Call MPD, get the situation dealt with before you have to deal with the repercussions of being ‘that guy’. Call often, give exact addresses, clothing description, and leave a callback number, asking responding officers to contact you.

  • Call the cops. Call them every hour on the hour.

    I’ve had with this problem. I tried to be nice. 2 freakin’ years….I grew to hate my neighbors (on both sides of my home).

    I’ve decided to leave. I can afford to.

    Let them have it. If they want to live like that, let them. If they want to deal, let them. If they want to die at the hands of each other over some stupid shit, let them.

    As a 40 something year old black man, I fear I’ve turned into an angry white guy.

    Peace out…

    • As a 20-something female, I also sometimes worry I am turning into and angry white guy… Hahaha

      Hope you find a place with nice neighbors!

    • Amen brotha. I was so liberal when I moved to the city and now I fear I’m starting to agree with/be like Juan Williams more and more. What’s that old saying? A liberal is a conservative who hasn’t been a victim (or something like that). It was so much easier to be a liberal while living in Arlington and not seeing people sitting on the stoop of their section 8 house, drinking liquor at 6 AM, watching you leave for work (probably to case your house), so that you can work hard enough to pay for them to buy another 40.

    • As an almost 30 something white guy, I want to buy you a beer and shake your hand for trying, sir.

  • Fight fire with fire – invite a bunch of hipsters over to play kickball and drink PBR in front of THEIR houses!

  • We have the same problem, except the guys on our corner also deal drugs and invite all their friends over for huge street parties on a regular basis. I actually miss the cold weather because then they would stay inside. Some of the guys regularly sit on the brick wall in front of our yard and throw trash on it. Last time I cleaned my yard I found a used condom, which I scooped up and placed on the brick wall they sit on. Fortunately, we sleep at the back of our house, so we are not easily woken up, but these guys are so loud I can hear them louder than my stereo/TV with the windows closed. This is pretty annoying when working from home. Our response has been to call the cops regularly (after 10pm) for noise, and anytime of day for huge pot clouds drifting into our house. So far, we haven’t gotten much response from the police. Other neighbors have been good about calling when fights break out, etc.. so the cops have come for more serious issues with these guys.
    Even though these guys are mostly harmless, it really bugs me how a group of drug dealer punks can trash an entire block, and make our street less livable. I want to punch these guys every time I look across the street and see some family walking down the sidewalk and is forced to squeeze in between two parked cars halfway down the block and switch sides of the street to avoid these punks.
    I’m tempted to buy a mosquito (high frequency noise that bugs young people), but they are super expensive (and likely illegal). I’m also tempted to place sulfur or something really bad smelling on my yard so they don’t site on my wall and throw trash at my house. Maybe the BB gun isn’t a bad idea after all…

  • Move.

  • Be that guy. This city needs a whole lot more of them.

  • true about bocce, but for the record, kickball was never hip. it was always alcoholic frat boys and people who never made it at sports trying to relive some popularity contest. too many of those people met each other and procreated. I’m scared for the next generation.

    • Last weekend, I walked by the park on 11th Kenyon, and was stunned to see loads of fat hipsters playing bocce on the goddammned soccer field. Take it to the park, people! Leave the soccer field to people who want to get some exercise.

      • you’re damn right. that field should be for soccer players who respect it only!

      • andy

        soccer is sacrosanct. we will not allow you to do your lazy people beer sports on the beautiful game’s turf! go play in the dog park or something.

  • Calling the cops in this town is futile for a noise complaint. And no one in his or her right mind wants to confront these punks and become a potential victim. So there is a market for vigilante justice in the gentrifying NW neighborhoods just waiting for the right person to take advantage of it, I’ve come to realize. Advertise with something like “For $500 we will make sure your late night craps game problem goes away, no questions asked, money-back guarantee.”

  • The person that lived in my house before me made a habit of calling the cops for these types of disturbances. She became know as “that guy”, which most neighbors agree led to the robbery of her house 4 times over a couple years. I think you should be free to handle the situation as you see fit, without fear of retribution, but I would be somewhat cautious of what could happen.

  • Thanks for all the comments! You guys have def. given me a lot to think about. I’m leaning towards talking to the ones that I know and giving them some ground rules- 10pm for weekdays/11pm for weekends, and no trash in my yard. If it’s not directly in front of my house/bordering my lawn, then they can do whatever they want. The funny thing is that a couple of people suggested I take out the street light that they play under with a bb gun…

    Just as a side note, the house was a former “Good deal or not,” and the comments slaughtered my taste in houses.

    • I bought a pellet gun to take out a streetlight that shined directly in my bedroom. It was a waste of money.

      DC may take 2 years to get you a trash can, but for some reason they will replace a streetlight within 24 hours every single time.

      • I hope you never bitch about “those kids” vandalizing “your city”. Clearly you cant take care of it, either.

        Was that street light there when you bought the house?

        • The streetlight was there when I rented the house, yes. Unfortunately most rental agents don’t do midnight showings and gosh darn it, I just plumb forgot to open every single blind in every single window to check for possible nighttime annoyances in rooms that I might or might not have ended up sleeping in during my 10 minute tour.

          DC decided blacking out the half of the light facing my house was beyond their abilities, so I took matter into my own hands.

          But you are right- I am a horrible, horrible person because I took out 1 streetlight. Every other streetlight in DC is in perfect working order except for the one I took out. We were going to get City of the Year, but the judging committee packed up and left when they saw that one streetlight. Every person who passed that streetlight hung their head in shame at the dastardly villain who bathed 1/20th of their block in terrifying darkness.

          • correct, you are a horrible person, not to mention an idiot. have you ever heard of black out shades? you can get a roller blind to black out a window for cheap at home depot.

      • austindc

        You bought a gun instead of a shade? That’s funny and weird.

  • I would be weary of assumptions in the following areas:

    *what it is to be “that guy”, aybe “that guy” stands for something, maybe he has always been responsible and protective, and maybe he was never so bad/just older than you…

    *what African American city culture is or isn’t. Neighbors sitting on stoops together, hanging out, it’s all good… we like these examples of our American culture/African American cultures. If I were African American I would be pissed off sometimes at whites who would lump me together with neighbors doing illegal activities an late into the night. It’s not just whites who don’t like that.

  • Be that guy. I’ve been dealing with a similar situation for 4 years and its very steadily improving. I tried for the first year to “be flexible” and “set ground rules” and “find a fair solution.” It won’t work. If you show kindness and tolerance in this situation I guarantee that these guys will conclude that you are weak and the party will only get bigger. They are drunk, shooting craps in front of your house, and leaving their trash behind. That is such supremely disrespectful behavior in any “normal” (non-DC) context that I can’t believe I ever wondered what the right answer was. Call MPD, every time. Make sure they know it WAS you. They will eventually find somewhere else.

    • “If you show kindness and tolerance in this situation I guarantee that these guys will conclude that you are weak and the party will only get bigger.”

      I agree. I intuitively knew this when I moved to Petworth, but I didn’t become a real ass until the kids’ activities started to escalate. Now, I’ve been here long enough where I don’t regard myself as an interloper on their turf. It’s MY block now, and they have to play by my rules. Those kids assume you’re a pussy until you prove otherwise….you need to man up from the get go and don’t show fear.

  • i grew up in suburbs, and my father had a wonderful solution – when the neighbors next door would be rowdy way too late, he’d get up way too early and mow not only our lawn, but theirs (because they rarely did).

    he took being “that guy” very seriously, but there was very little fear of retalliation. it’s not like they could complain about the “favor” of a mowed lawn.

    unfortunately, the city has few opportunities for that kind of “that guy” behavior, and you’d end up making too many other not-awful neighbors mad.

    so call the cops, and document when you call and if/when there is a response. build it up so if the MPD is not responsive, you have something you can readily take to your councilmember or higher ups at the MPD. Good luck.

  • andy

    Try to learn some dudes’ names. Learn their moms’ names. If they’re living with mom, you got an angle righ there. As long as they’re just the dude from the block and you’re the yuppie on the block, you’re not going to bridge that gap easily.

    Meet your neighbors when you can and ask what they would do to stop the most offensive stuff.

    We had a young neighbor who was trouble, pot smoke coming through the walls, girls fighting in the back yard, screaming and ear-destroying bass all night, etc. Found out it was the son of the owner living there without her permission/knowledge, and as soon as one of other neighbors called her, like that . . . he’s gone.

    It’s just one way of approaching it. Might work for you, might not.

    • +1000

      A year and a half ago, I became the new white guy on a block mostly inhabited by Black folks who have lived in their homes for 30, 40, 50 years. I haven’t had any major problems like the one described in this post, but there have been and will always be smaller issues to deal with. I’ve gotten to know my long-time-resident neighbors, many of whom are elderly, by shoveling their sidewalks, helping them with yard work, carrying groceries occasionally, etc. These folks have welcomed me whole-heartedly into the community and have become my go-to sources for advice and assistance when it comes to dealing with problems on the block.

      Get to know your responsible, friendly neighbors who have known the trouble-makers since they were in diapers. It’s likely that these responsible, friendly neighbors are just as bothered by the trouble-makers as you are. And they’ll have much more success in communicating with the trouble-makers.

    • I was 10:06 above and should have mentioned this. It helps, alot. Sometimes I don’t have to call the cops anymore because going out and saying:

      “y’all have 5 minutes to find somewhere else to be or I’m waking up your mom/grandma. And I talked to Mrs. Lois down at [house number], and she’s sick of hearing all your nonsense too” Works in 2 minutes, not 5.

      Also works on guys who are well into their 20s, and I don’t have to wait for the cops to show up and not do much.

  • Friends, lemme tell you what I mean. Ya got one, two, three, four, five, six sides to a die. Sides that mark the difference between a gentlemen and a bum, with a capital “B,” and that rhymes with “D” and that stands for dice! And all week-long your DC youth will be frittern away, I say your young men will be frittern! Frittern away their noontime, suppertime, choretime too!

    Throw the dice on the ground, never mind gittin’ Dandelions pulled, or the screen door patched or the beefsteak pounded. Never mind pumpin’ any water til your parents are caught with the Cistern empty, on a Saturday night and that’s trouble, oh, yes we got lots and lots a’ trouble. I’m thinkin’ of the kids in the knickerbockers, shirt-tail young ones, peekin’ on the sidewalks and the alleys, after school, look, folks! Right here in the District.

    Trouble with a capital “T” and that rhymes with “D” and that stands for dice!

    Trouble, oh we got trouble, right here in The District!
    With a capital “T” that rhymes with “D” and that stands for dice, that stands for dice. We’ve surely got trouble!
    Right here in The District, right here! Gotta figure out a way to keep the young ones moral after school!

    Mothers of The District! Heed the warning before it’s too late! Watch for the tell-tale sign of corruption! The moment your son leaves the house, does he rebuckle his knickerbockers below the knee? Is there a nicotine stain on his index finger? A dime novel hidden in the corn crib?
    Is he starting to memorize jokes from Capt. Billy’s Whiz Bang? Are certain words creeping into his conversation?
    Words like ‘swell?” And ‘so’s your old man?” Well, if so my friends, ya got trouble, right here in The District! With a capital “T” and that rhymes with “D” and that stands for dice.

  • I had a similar problem with a house on my block. It was a rental that was a magnet for every kid in the area. After the family moved out (their son had been shot for the 2d time) the kids still came around. They hosted a nightly dice game on the front porch. I wasn’t having it. I sent an email to Jim Graham (yes, Jim Graham), he contacted MPD and the owner of the house, and the situation was resolved by more police presence and a sale of the property to an owner-occupier.
    Bottom line is you have a right to quiet enjoyment of your home. That doesn’t mean nothing louder than crickets chirping; it does mean not having to put up with a dice game in front of your house every night.
    For those of you scoffing at the possibility of a dice game turning dangerous, you must not be paying attention to what’s happening on the streets. Under the code that too many of these kids live by, shooting or stabbing someone is an acceptable – even mandatory – response for all kinds of “offenses” that most normal people would consider to be nonsense.

  • Whatever you do, don’t bet the hardways.

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