From the Forum – people loitering in front of your house / sitting on your steps?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Mr. T in DC

people loitering in front of your house / sitting on your steps?

“soooo, am I just supposed to call the cops or something? They don’t live in this row house… for some reason my house has become a hang out every day for people. They block the sidewalk and sit on the steps to my door.

This is illegal right?”

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39 Comment

  • So rude! I am not sure if it is illegal, but it does sound like trespassing and certainly call the police every time it happens.

  • I’d love to get an answer on this too. We’ve seen this problem on our block now that it’s summer. And the groups that loiter always leave mounds of trash in their wake. It’s awful.

  • It’s probably somewhat illegal since your property line almost certainly would be somewhere between the curb and your front steps. It would depend on exactly what you mean by blocking sidewalk/sitting on steps. Sidewalks are generally public right of way so you can’t really stop people from using them. I wonder if it would be worth the potential retaliation to do anything about it though.

  • That’s when you know it’s time to power wash your steps or time to spray your steps for cockroaches and wasps.

  • Sounds like you must live near 11th and Lamont. I remember the days when I had to step over the drunks to get into my house…those were the days; I do miss you mini-ADMO!

  • Make your front steps less hospitable?

  • I’m also curious to know the answer. I live in a more suburban part of the city blocks from the metro and from the bus stops. I’ve encountered random strangers on my front porch twice and most recently on my back deck. Each time I’ve contacted the police and by the time they arrive, these individuals are gone.

  • Before the inevitable post saying “in D.C. you don’t own your front steps” remember that is a blanket statement that is far from true. In most of the non-historic city (roughly outside the downside U that is Florida avenue) your property line is all the way until it meets the sidewalk. Inside the historic zones it becomes more nuanced, but if the city does own it, its a public easment with a right of private enjoyment. In either case, your the person “lawfully in charge” of that property and what they are doing is Unlawful entry on Property under D.C. Code 22-3302. Videio them, call the cops.

    (as an aside this new site sucks. It takes me 100 tries to post a comment before the too fast thing stops popping up :/rant.)

  • A couple of signs saying “This area under video surveillance” might do the trick. I’d follow up by actually installing cameras, but that’s up to the OP.

    • I have to say that nothing seems to convey the idea that a spot is great for loitering as well as a “no loitering” sign. And I would probably move out of the city before putting up one of those “video surveillance” signs.

  • Just call the cops. They’ll come out and shoo the people away. If you make enough complaints maybe they’ll eventually patrol your neighborhood more.

  • solution: invite friends over to stoop with you.

  • You can definitely call the police and they will come. Recently there was a younger teen hanging out on my neighbor’s stoop throwing rocks from his garden into the road at passing cars. I called the police and they came pretty quickly and told him to move along.

  • I’ve had this problem once before. I tried asking them nicely to sit somewhere else, and I tried calling the police. Nothing worked. Finally I just covered my steps except for a very narrow passage down the middle with potted plants (I was the only resident, so I didn’t mind going around them – if you share the front steps check with neighbors first) to limit the amount of physical space they could sit and then putting out the sprinkler in the tiny little front yard, which I could actually turn on and off through a control valve for the outdoor hose and spigot that was under my kitchen sink, and just turning it on whenever I saw them out there. I positioned it so it would overspray onto the sidewalk a little as well to keep them from just standing out front of the fence till it went off.

    In bad news, I actually did notice my water bill went up by $10 or $15 a month. In good news, I have never had a yard before or since that was that lush and green, even when all of my neighbors had dead plants from the heat wave that year.

  • Yeah, there were two beautiful people taking having what looked like engagement photos taken on my front steps in Columbia Heights the other day. I’m talking about you, suave facial hair guy and attractive woman in the blue dress!

    More seriously, have had the less photogenic sort of step campers as well and am not cool with it.

  • Blast some Barry Manilow from your front window. That should do the trick.

    • I definitely find that blasting some Nirvana gets rid of the loiterers in front of my house.

      Until the hipsters start stoop squatting, this should work.

      When they come, I’ll play early 90s R&B or something.

  • If it’s the same folks every day why not just try talking to them? They are still people, not just pests annoying you.

  • Since the sign in the picture says “‘no’ loitering,” I guess that means that you can loiter? Grammar fail, MPD.

  • This probably sounds a little unorthodox but I suggest throwing some kind of a stinkbomb or something unpleasant out there in the morning when you leave for work to make it unpleasant and they go somewhere else. Hopefully the smell is gone by the time you get home. Stink-palming yourself is worth it if the other guys get stink-palmed as well.

  • Police Chief Cathy Lanier writes to City Desk: “D.C. does not have general loitering laws, as general loitering laws have been widely found to be unconstitutional.”

    • that’s irrelevant to this discussion. Ask them to leave. If they don’t leave, call the cops.

      • It’s relevant because the OP asks if they should call the cops. And sure he can call them, but will they come and even if they do will it be effective? Probably not.

    • What dat said –we have the same issue (usually older, intoxicated men) who sit on ours or our neighbors front steps just outside of the gate/front yard. We don’t threaten or yell, but basically just say “Hey guys, move along…you can’t sit here.” If they stay, we call the cops. (Or let the dog out into our front yard but realize that’s not an option for everyone!)

    • I thought that was applicable only to public space, not to private space. I imagine the steps of one’s house count as private space, even if (say) the sidewalk in front of the house counts as public space.
      Not sure whether the retaining wall between a front yard and the sidewalk would count as private or public space. I’m guessing private.

  • In some cases, I think it is a floating drug market. I suspect that there is a series of rotating meeting points. We’ve had small groups of teenagers, sometimes accompanied by a single adult, suddenly congregating at the rear of our building, looking very much like they are waiting for something and often making a fair amount of noise. Sometimes they light up joints. They rarely stay for more than 30-45 minutes.

  • Similar but different: on runs in 16th street heights, I often see groups of 10 people (or more!) sitting on the front steps or walls of an unfortunate house adjacent to a bus stop. This is a big, square 16th street property, a little run down, but not cheap.

    I often wonder how I’d handle that situation if it were me laboring to pay the mortgage on a $1.2M home, only to have a bunch of random people sitting all over my front walk every day. Call the cops? Install automatic sprinklers? Rub dog poop all over? Employ a legion of potted plants? Add sharp edges or broken glass to the walls (as they do in India and other places). Or just let it go?

    • That’s a great idea! This way, not only will you be laboring over the mortgage, but the giant lawsuit that comes your way.

      The first thing you should do is try talking to them. They’re human beings.

      • No lawsuit without liability. They’d have to prove you put the broken glass there, as opposed to broken glass being left there from bottles dropped by their fellow loiterers. That case would sink like a stone.

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