Dear PoPville – “car alarm has been going off literally every 5 minutes for the past four hours”

Photo by PoPville flickr user washingtonydc

“Dear PoPville,

My neighbor’s car alarm has been going off literally every 5 minutes for the past four hours directly outside my window. I work from home and it’s really starting to drive me nuts. Is there anything I can do about this? No one is near the car, it’s clearly malfunctioning.”

39 Comment

  • maxwell smart

    What I always want someone to do in these situations is to steal the car but leave the alarm behind in the parking space still blaring.

  • Move back to the suburbs?

    • What an original comment… Added a lot to the conversation. Thanks for the valuable contribution….

    • Why doesn’t the person who has the car alarm move back to the suburbs? Why move to the city if you’re not going to be a responsible neighbor?

    • I thought we all agreed that this response is no longer funny.

    • Ugh, I hate that this is the go-to suggestion for some commenters for anyone who has a complaint. I love being a city dweller, and this would get on my nerves as well. I have also lived in the suburbs before I moved to the city, and guess what – I saw things like this happen there too. The “move back to the suburbs” comments come across as unnecessary and slightly condescending. How about posting something constructive instead?

      • Probably less likely to happen in the suburbs because the person’s car would not be there if they weren’t home. Unless they have more than one car.

        • There are plenty of people in the suburbs that take public transportation for commuting. They utilize the slug line. Apartment complexes (including one I lived in) have free shuttles to the metro. Plenty of ways for it to happen.

          • Yeah, my 75 year old mother in law in VA still gets to and from work via public transit (bus, to metro, to shuttle). She does drive to the bus stop bus but it’s only a mile away and a more able bodied person could bike or walk it. It can be done if you have patience!

    • This could happen in the suburbs too if the neighbor has multiple cars.

    • Not only have I never lived in the suburbs, nor do I own a car, the car has Virgina plates and clearly belongs to someone who DOES live in the suburbs.

      • Is there a time limit on the parked car? If it has VA plates the parking time should be limited, no? If the parking time has expired TOW IT!

        • The cops came and ticketed it since it was illegally parked in zone parking but wouldn’t do anything about the noise or tow it. I sat in a far room for the call I had to run and then went to a cafe. Thanks for all who get legitimate suggestions 🙂

  • Leave a (kind) note on the window with your name and number. Ask them to give you a call so you can explain the situation and also so you’ll have their number, in case this happens again. Do you know the neighbor?
    If you want to be really sneaky, pop open their hood and disconnect the electrical terminals from the car battery. That will end the noise.

  • Ugh – that’s the worst. That happened on my street a few years back and the alarm went off about every 15 minutes for THE ENTIRE WEEKEND. That car was covered with notes from disgruntled neighbors (and me…) on Monday morning.

  • Someone came out and “fixed it” somehow when I called 311 about that once.

    • I’ve found 311 difficult to navigate on the phone, but they have a fantastic new app that allows me to report every minor infraction I see in my neighborhood. No one will ever block a crosswalk in my area again! They’re surprisingly responsive too. OP- try reporting them via Washington DC 311.

  • This happened one rainy night in San Francisco a few years back. The police came, popped the hood, cut the wires to the horn, but let the alarm continue flashing the lights for the next 6 hours. But dawn the car’s battery was dead.
    Perhaps you could get the local cops to do the same for you?

  • Duh. You get the license plate number and call the police; hopefully, with your window open, so they can hear the noise.

  • I used to work at a store in Greenwich Village, NYC. It was located near the corner of a block with a bunch of apartment houses. One day, a car alarm started going off non-stop. This was before the days of intermittent alarms. After about 30 minutes, one of the ladies who lived in a nearby building came out of the doorway, still in her housecoat, and smashed a carton of eggs on the windshield.
    Maybe that wasn’t as effective at sending a message to the owner as a note on the windshield would have been. But I think it made the lady feel pretty good.

    • istreettoistreet

      This happens all the time in my neighborhood and I work from home as well – brick through the windshield is always my first thought.

  • This happened in my neighborhood about a year ago, except it was a malfunctioning alarm that went on ALL NIGHT without pause. The cops came and said that since the car wasn’t illegally parked they couldn’t do anything about…

    • Maybe we are neighbors. The blaring horn for nearly 24 hours was awful. I tried to sleep with noise canceling headphones on, but even that wasn’t fully sufficient to block it out (and the lights were flashing straight into my bedroom).

      I believe that in the end a neighbor did end up…disengaging…horn. And no one will ever tell who that neighbor was, because the are our hero.

  • Any chance you know the neighbor? Or know anyone who knows the owner? Maybe suggest they call AAA to come deal with the issue… Otherwise work from a cafe for the rest of the day if possible. Sorry for your annoyance, it would drive me crazy too

  • We’ve had this happen before and called 911. The dispatcher said they get calls like this regularly and they’ll send someone out to handle it. I’m not sure if they can turn it off, but they are able to issue citations.

  • Call the police. This happened on my street a few months ago, and the police came out and unhooked the alarm within 15 minutes. It was a faulty fuse or circuit; I believe they left a business card explaining the situation to the owner, and it seemed like something they dealt with all of the time.

  • Definitely do not try to disconnect the battery yourself- we had this happen in my neighborhood a couple of summers ago and the police arrived just as a neighbor was punching through the window to pop the hood. It took a lot of explaining to convince the cops he was not responsible for setting off the alarm when trying to steal the car.

  • Yeah, call the police. There’s a looooong requirement, though, before they can do anything about it, so you’ll have to fudge the time. Say it’s been doing it since last night. If you say it’s only been four hours, they’ll say they’re sorry and they’ll come back later tonight. But they can tow it or disconnect the battery.

  • You can take care of this with a baseball bat. Nobody is responding to the alarm going off, so chances are nobody will respond when you destroy it like Michael Bolton’s printer.

  • Aglets

    oh man…..a few nights ago this happened every half hour at 2:30, 3 & 4am I woke up and looked out the window and didn’t see anything so i didn’t go outside- i did see something once and yelled out the window and called the police and the guy jogged away. The car owner said she wasn’t missing anything

  • You are supposed to cover the car with eggs, deli meat and anything else you need to get rid of from the fridge. Had this happen a few times (overnight situations) and in the morning you could see that several neighbors participated.

  • I once had a car alarm going off and I went over to inspect — on another occasion, I’d found an address on the dashboard of a horny car and roused the guy to fix things, he was actually pretty apologetic — so I was hoping to get lucky once again. Anyway, in a moment of frustration, or inspiration, I kicked the car somewhere between the driver’s side wheel well and the front door, and the alarm stopped. Later, about 3AM, the same car called out to me me again and there was a small flock of cops standing around clucking and I said, “look, this isn’t my car, but…” and kicked it again and it stopped again and they all laughed their asses off and left for the 7-11 to get coffee or something. The next day, I was coming home from work and it was going off so I showed a couple on neighbors who were standing around looking frustrated where to kick it and later that night they took their turn, kicking it into silence sometime after midnight, so i didn’t have to get out of bed. After the automotive kickboxing tutorial, when I went home in search of a kiss and a martini and a high five after a hard but neighborly day, my wife said: “Thank God, I tried kicking it, but it didn’t stop.” Turned out she’d been kicking an innocent car all day. City living brings with it so many innocent victims The next day, the car left. But I think I’m going to try the same technique next time around. Not as much fun as a brick, but statistically more effective.

  • Sigh…

    Maybe I’m in the minority here, but y’all are being awfully harsh. I totally get the irritation. It would drive me nuts. But consider the possibility that the car owner is stuck somewhere or late or dealing with something serious and has already realized there will be a fat ticket waiting. No one purposely sets off their alarm. This person has no idea it’s going off and would probably be mortified if he/she did. Having been that NY driver (in the ROSA system) parked too long in DC because I was stuck at a job, I kind of want to give this driver the benefit of the doubt. We’re all so quick to attack and assume the worst. Maybe step back and consider another scenario other than stupid suburban driver parked illegally and doesn’t give a crap about anyone else. I dunno. I have to go bake cookies and run through rainbows now. Love, Susie Sunshine

    • Nah, two options for the owner: get rid of the annoying car alarm (it’s not the 90’s anymore) or deal with the consequences if it malfunctions.

  • Are car alarms actually effective for their intended purpose?
    It seems like the main reaction to a car alarm isn’t “Oh, somebody might be breaking into a car — I’d better call the police so they can apprehend the would-be thief!”, but “WILL SOMEONE SHUT THAT F***ING THING UP?!?” I guess that makes me wonder what the point of having a car alarm is.

    • Smilla

      That’s what I’ve always thought.

      Also, are car alarms making a comeback? Or did they never go away? I remember car alarms being everywhere in the 1980s through the mid-90s. And then they seemed to get far less popular — probably because of incidents like this and owners realizing that they’re not worth the bother.

      • Car alarms are less popular these days because cars are harder to steal, and there is less car theft.

        Also, alarms don’t really work.

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