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“I have a new baby coming soon and the situation is not improving.”

by Prince Of Petworth August 17, 2016 at 12:50 pm 77 Comments

photo by PoPville flickr user DCbmyers

“Dear PoPville,

I wondered if you had any suggestions for my problem.

From midnight to 3am my neighbors around the corner (who moved in a few months ago) will shout loudly and argue while swearing at the top of their lungs with each other, on the back porch and in the alley outside the house they live in. My bedroom abuts the same alley and it’s impossible to escape the noise.

If it was just an occasional party I wouldn’t make it a big deal but it’s seriously loud, regular, pretty aggressive, and very late at night.

I have a new baby coming soon and the situation is not improving.

What do you think? Can the police do anything or do I just have to hope those folks move or calm down once the heat passes? I don’t want to cause problems for the neighbors but it’s becoming a serious problem for the quality of life in the neighborhood. I hate to involve the police but I don’t know what else to do.

Would appreciate any thoughts on how best to proceed.”

  • lucie

    (1) call the police

    (2) buy a white noise machine for the baby

    • transplanted


    • fka Shawess

      +2. And possibly another white noise machine for yourself. The Marpac Dohm brand one is amazingly effective.

      • Caroline

        +3 And noise-canceling blackout curtains.

        • INWDC

          I had no idea these existed (though I guess this is something similar used in hotels) – thanks for the tip

      • SassyinDC

        Yes, agree– the Marpac Dohm is what we use in our six year old daughter’s room. We live in a center hall colonial, single family home on a relatively large corner lot, so no noisy neighbors, but believe the sound machine helps my daughter sleep more soundly.

  • eckerson

    I had a similar problem in the alleyway behind my house. Initially I approached the men and asked them to be more quiet. This was met with little response, so the police were called. A cruiser would show up and the guys would turn down the music and noise, but as soon at the cop car left they would start up again.
    What has worked, has been blasting classical and opera music as loud as my speakers will allow (I bought a LOUD external bluetooth speaker). Its not your standard size bluetooth speaker—its the biggest UE boom they make. This has actually worked…they haven’t called the cops on me, and they for the most part have moved their party to another alleyway.

    • MRD

      Getting confrontational with neighbors who exhibit confrontational behavior is unwise in any situation. Downright crazy with a baby on the way. Call the police and report it as domestic violence. Do it often.

  • blester

    Is this house on Randolph Street? If so the problem is slowly being addressed.

    • I have called 911 on this house on Randolph Street many, many times. I am so sick of getting woken up in the middle of the night by them. I hope it is actually being addressed.

  • pcat

    Are your windows old? Replacing them might help. But most of all, you have to recognize that you live in a city and folks will make noise, particularly in the summer.

    • FridayGirl

      But this is different than typical city “noise” — particularly if it’s a domestic violence situation or drug-related situation that could escalate. Normal city noise is sirens periodically and maybe a car playing loud music for a few minutes outside.

    • wdc

      Agree on the windows. We replaced ours, and the sound insulation was AMAZING.

      • HaileUnlikely

        I agree with this. My previous home was built in the 1920’s and I think it’s windows might have been original – in any event, they were very old and did not block sound at all. My current home has good-quality insulated windows that were installed in 2005, and the difference in both drafts (a lot vs. none) and sound from outside (a lot vs. much less) is extraordinary. That said, if people are yelling loudly in front of my house, which is rare where I live but still happens once in a while, I still hear them. If your windows aren’t due for replacement for other reasons besides people yelling a few feet away, replacing the windows might cost a lot and still fail to yield the benefits you hope for.

    • pjl35

      If this were the occasional party, I’d agree with you…but given the scene the OP described I don’t think this falls under the “this is what city life entails” category.

  • not legal advice

    Call the police. The disorderly conduct statute has a “noise at night” subsection that reads as follows:
    “It is unlawful for a person to make an unreasonably loud noise between 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. that is likely to annoy or disturb one or more other persons in their residences.” (This is D.C. Code § 22-1321 (d)).

  • Matt

    I’ve recently learned about the nuisance abatement patrol. Call the police and get their help on this.

  • Anon

    Maybe if you wait it out they’ll eventually do the right thing and break up?

    • pjl35

      I’d call the police the next time it happens.

    • pjl35

      Apologies – didn’t mean to make this a reply to your post!

      • Anon

        Well calling the police would probably increase the animosity between them and accelerate the breakup!

  • Bort

    Yell “will you please shut the f*ck up, it’s 3a.m. and we’re tryna sleep over here” out the window. Which you could follow up with “no? okay I’m calling the cops” if/as necessary. Or earplugs?

    • pjl35

      earplugs don’t exactly help the baby.

      • Bort

        You would need small ones for the baby, for sure.

        • Anon

          Ha! That’s good.

        • Anonymous

          You could get those cute ones Michael Phelps’ kid was wearing at the Olympics. No matter how loud that arena was, that kid was out like a light.

    • annonny

      I agree with this, particularly if you have someone in your house with a deep, loud voice who can sound incredibly pissed off. If there’s no change, call the cops immediately. Trying to address this the “nice way” is unlikely to work, from what you’ve described.

      • navyard

        I wonder if you could download a recording of this with a really mean-sounding dude saying it. I would pay $1.49 for it! Double that if I could use it as a ringtone!

    • PotomacGirl

      There are some great Youtube videos you could blast out the window by turning up the sound…(“shut the Fxxx Up”)

  • Anon

    Yeah I would call this in to 911. Do it a few times and hopefully they will stop. For the inevitable comments that they neighborly thing is to man up and talk to them: unless these are otherwise nice, well-meaning people, it’s not worth the risk of retaliation. We tried to take the “neighborly” route with a neighbor who was regularly parking in our alley in a way that blocked our driveway. He refused to stop doing it, was a jerk to us, and now we have to worry about retaliation because he knows it is likely us when we call 311 to get him ticketed.

    • FridayGirl

      +1. Yeah, I definitely would not get directly involved.

  • FridayGirl

    OP, I don’t know exactly what the situation with your neighbors is — whether they’re a couple or friends or what — but if you think it’s a domestic violence type of situation, you might look into calling one of the women’s shelters or domestic violence non-profits to ask for their advice. They might also just say call the police, but they may have additional suggestions that I’m not thinking of.

  • anon

    Before you call the cops, why not go over and try talking to them and explain that you’ve got a baby that is trying to sleep and they’re yelling in the alley is keeping that from happening.

    Then go the yelling out the window approach, and only if both those avenues don’t work you call the cops to try to sort it out.

    • I Have the Same Problem

      That’s a great idea! Let them know who you are and where you live first, then call the cops on them. I’m sure they won’t retaliate in any way :)

      • anon

        First, you don’t have to point out the house you live in. Just say “I can hear y’all yelling late at night from my bedroom window that faces the alley”.

        Second, what type of “retaliation” are you afraid of? Them being unpleasant and rude at you? Yelling? Who gives a shit, they’re already doing all of those things right now.

        • HaileUnlikely

          I have had friends and family members intervene in loud domestic arguments a few times and 100% of them ended up escalating into some form of physical altercation. If they told me to “Mind your g*d* m*f* business, g*d* f*f* cr*acker!” or something to that effect and then resumed their fight with each other, I’d count myself as lucky. If screaming at each other in public is how they address their issues, I wouldn’t put it past them to get physical with me or shoot me.

          If they were just out there enjoying the evening and talking about football and speaking more loudly than I would like, that would be a fundamentally different scenario, but as a general matter, I would absolutely not interject in the middle of a wild domestic argument, other than by calling 911, if I myself were not prepared for it to escalate.

          • anon

            Yeah I’m not saying jump into the middle of the fight, but hop over there during the day and just talk to them. Trying to break into the fight when tensions are flaring up is asking for the anger to be directed towards you, which doesn’t help anyone.

            I’ve done this numerous times with varying kinds of people, and the absolute worst response I got was a verbal berating and the behavior didn’t change. At best they were apologetic, and admitted they weren’t thinking about how their behavior was impacting anyone else because they were so enraged, and they toned down the yelling/changed locations.

            Even when it was painfully obvious who I was (i.e., being the one white guy on the block), if I went over during a calm period and talked to them like adults I never had any packages stolen/vandalism/any other action taken towards me. Even the people who chased me off their porch and cussed me out never interacted with me again.

          • steph

            Yeah, I’ve seen some weird stuff happen when people have tried to be helpful / intervene in something on our (former) street. And what if they are drunk / on drugs? Increases the chance of them responding poorly. Let the police handle it.

        • DupontDC

          That’s a really naive response. Surely the inconsiderate neighbors have seen the OP around the neighborhood and could tell what house he/she lives in. If not, they will probably make a point to find out. Retaliation can come in a lot of forms – stolen packages, trashing OPs property, damaging a car/bike, etc. People can find ways to get creative when retaliating against a perceived wrong, and I would never want to take that chance. Not saying this would happen, but I always expect the worst in these types of situations and act accordingly.

          • Northzax

            Or, maybe they don’t realize that they are bothering anyone. If you were annoying a neighbor, wouldn’t you prefer they talk to you first before calling the police?

        • Alessandra Carozza

          Went the talk to the neighbors path you suggested. The retaliation once I did call the cops was broken window (twice), smashed floodlights, and regular racist harassment every time I used my garage.

          Don’t underestimate the concern with retaliation – people who show such little concern for their neighbors by shouting at all hours are not the type of folks who will respond kindly to a neighborly request.

    • wdc

      There’s a quote that’s usually attributed to Maya Angelou: When people show you who they are, believe them.
      So, the neighbors have SHOWN that they’re the kind of people who are willing to scream obscenities through the wee hours of the night, in a densely populated area. And you think that we should choose to believe that they’re totally nice, rational folks who will respond reasonably to a request like that? Your optimism is adorable.

      • dcd

        This. Or, if you’re lowbrow like me, in the words of the late Dennis Green, “They are who we thought they were!”

        • jim_ed

          And we let em off the hook!

  • TalkFirst

    You should talk to them first. Not at midnight when they are fighting but during the day. Just knock on their door and nicely let them know that they have woken you up a few times and you would appreciate it if they could party inside when it’s late because your bedroom faces their backyard. If that doesn’t work, you should call the cops. But I don’t think calling the cops should be your first move.

    • FridayGirl

      “it if they could party inside”
      But they’re not partying. They’re fighting…

      • DC CapHill

        Do NOT identify you house. Certainly DO NOT identify where you sleep, unless you want to put yourself and your Baby in harms way of a potential brick thru the window at 3 am after you’ve pissed them off.

        People that scream obscenities at each other, repeatedly, and at 3 am, clearly have no solid ground that is based in reality.

        Let the Police deal with it.

    • Park View

      This is truly naive. What you suggest is a perfectly acceptable approach when you have a neighbor who you can safely assume is reasonable, not on drugs, and does not frequently exhibit volatile behavior. That is not the case here. (See above comments regarding people who did try to asking similarly off-their-rocker neighbors and the danger it put them in). And secondly, it does sound a lot like a domestic abuse situation. Calling the police, again and again and again, each time this happens is the safe, effective way to handle this for all involved.

  • Anon

    I used live with a girlfriend who would get drunk and pick fights with me late at night. I appreciated it when someone called the police because it demonstrated that she was out of control and in the wrong.
    OTOH I had a friend who was being beaten by her abusive boyfriend, and when the cops showed up they criticized her for making so much noise (actually they said worse things I won’t repeat here) so it validated what he was doing.
    It’s a tough call but I think it would be better for everyone if you called the police.

  • K

    I have found that “Hi, my baby is trying to sleep” can quiet most people. When my twins were born we lived in a tiny row house with very loud neighbors. They’d be out until nearly dawn smoking pot, listening to music, and talking very loudly. I’m a sound sleeper (grew up living next door to train tracks) so it didn’t bother me until I had 2 babies to deal with. My husband is a bartender so I was doing the night shift by myself. One night my husband went out and explained to the guys that he had 2 new babies trying to sleep and an exhausted wife. He asked them to keep it quiet after about 9pm. They apologized and took their party else where after that. So hopefully your neighbors are equally as understanding. Unfortunately, some people are just jerks and won’t care. That type of person gets the cops called on them. And like others have already said, if it is domestic violence then the cops might need to be called regardless.

    Other things we have done to block noise for our sleeping babies: white noise machine and very thick blackout curtains.

    • anon

      +1 to all of this. Joann’s sells blackout curtain lining that you can just pin to the back of your curtains or clip on with curtain hooks if you don’t sew.

      On the bright side, if your infant can get used to sleeping through shouting and loud noises, that makes life a lot easier on you!

    • artemis

      The baby angle sadly did not work with my former upstairs neighbors. We ended up buying a place and moving on a much quicker time table than anticipated, largely to get away from the rude, loud neighbors. The upside is that our kid can sleep through anything now.

      • ANON

        Are you my wife? same situation here…

    • dcd

      This may work with people who are getting stoned. But once again, to you really think that people who are angry (or IDGAF) enough you scream at each other at 3 a.m., outside, in the city, are going to get riled up again, are going to stop in the middle of a fight and say,
      “Oh, Bart, remember those dear children are sleeping. Let’s table our disagreement until tomorrow, or address it n a quieter fashion inside.” “Good show, Jocelyn, mustn’t unset the infants and new parents.” outside

      • K

        just telling the OP what worked for us. no need for the passive aggressive.

        • dcd

          That wasn’t passive aggressive, it was scornful.

  • That One Guy

    The highly immature and impractical mad scientist in me wishes you would build a subsonic bass machine directed at their balcony.

  • Anon

    Maybe they don’t realize everyone can hear their fights? If so, you might be able to embarrass them into being more quiet by letting them know everyone can hear. But I agree with other posters not to directly confront these people. Perhaps a note under their door when they are not at home, saying that the whole neighborhood can hear every word of their fights, and asking them to please keep it down or indoors.

    • ParkViewneighbor

      maybe they don’t care ?

    • madmonk28

      The kind of person who screams obscenities in the street at 3am is not the kind of person who is easily embarrassed. My cousin went through this with his next door neighbors, basically he bought a bunch of noise cancelling stuff while letting their dysfunction run its course and they were no longer able to pay the rent.

  • los

    How about buying a spot light?

  • ArchbishopofHillEast

    Be an American, call it in.

    Don’t go talk to them, if you do and then call the police they will know who to harass for getting them into trouble.

  • lmfb

    We just went through this over the last year. Here’s what we did–get new windows (or if you don’t have thousands of $$ lying around, try sound cancelling curtains); sound machines (I agree with the dohm recommendation previous posters mentioned!); if you have the option, and aren’t co-sleeping, then set the nursery up in the middle bedroom, or back bedroom, or whichever bedroom is quietest (we did this, but we had baby in with us for the first … maybe 8 weeks or so, so this didn’t help until later); area rugs will stifle noise too; and finally, recognize that it’s okay for there to be ambient noise–your baby will learn to sleep through it, and will be a better sleeper for it.

    That said, we were dealing with a noisy street, and some loud people on the sidewalk. If you think there is domestic abuse going on next door, or some other dangerous situation, then of course you should call the police.

  • Brookland mom

    Are there other neighbors you know that you can coordinate a response so its not just you responding?

  • passive aggressive

    Change your Wifi name to “Everyone can hear you arguing at 3am”

    • west_egg

      This is easily my favorite suggestion so far.

  • dog lover but dog hater

    Same question, but neighbors have an annoy yappy dog that they chain to their back porch. It barks non-stop and I’ve gone over to them to tell them how annoying it is, they seem resigned like they know, but do nothing about it. When the dog is INSIDE their house, and I am in my yard, I can hear it barking. I think they seek relief by chaining it outside so that they can have some peace inside their house, but then it annoys all the neighbors.

    I have bought two dog bark suppressing machines on amazon. All of them are duds. My friends told me get the hose and spray it, but I think that will incite the neighbors. Any other thoughts?

    • CapitalDame

      In this heat that can be considered dangerous and animal cruelty, you can call 911 but I would start with the Humane Society hotline at 202-452-1100.

    • anon

      I think spraying it would only quiet it temporarily unless you sat outside and sprayed it every time it barked and by then the neighbors might notice what you were doing. Most people would be pretty pissed off by that.
      I have a similar problem except the guy walks his extremely loud dog every day at 6am. Every time it sees another living thing, no matter what it is, it SCREAMS bloody murder. It is super loud and alarming and wakes everyone up. The whole neighborhood hates this guy. I have thought about anonymously sending an anti-bark citronella collar to him or something, but I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t use it. He’s a crochety old guy who does not take very kindly to neighbors asking him to quiet his dog.


    Contact your ANC and put in the complaint, maybe this is a roll your eye comment, but sometimes it works. I’m not sure what ward you are in but listservs in some wards work great and can solve problems.

    If not, you can go to the police station and put in what’s called a “special request” to monitor an area/address for a specific amount of time – if you have other neighbors wishing the same – I would address it as you coming on behalf of the neighborhood of these address as well. Tell them what time the noise happens and they will add it to their route, they can address the concern while they drive by, that way you don’t have to call every time it happens. I’ve seen a several issues dry up from special requests. I agree w/ not getting involved personally. That’s the last worry you want to have on your hands. Best of luck.

  • Shaw Resident

    If you are opting to replace the windows, from the personal experience I will highly recumbent the PELLA’s 350 Series. I live on P ST and the Bus and serenest as well as folks yelling was a problem for a decade.

    Make sure you request the dual glass with 3mm and 5mm glad inside and the fully filled frame, and is best to the the 4.25 deep frame. additional you can get them tempered, as it adds to the noise filtration. They do run about $500

  • well

    could you put some plants behind your house? and install a sprinkler? and set it up so you can turn it on with a remote? and have it be just a little too powerful so it goes into the alley?

  • Goodlucktoyou

    We’ve had to deal with blocked driveway, drug dealers, theft, obnoxiously loud parties every night of the week, you name it.

    Eventually received an unneighborly note threatening retaliation if we ever called it in again. Parking enforcement was nice enough to point out who kept reporting the all cars blocking driveways.

    We looked into surveillance systems and found a DC rebate program ($500) for residents in particular police service areas.

    If you’re interested in putting up cameras, using taxpayer dollars, do a google search for:
    “DC Private Security Camera System Incentive Program”

  • Ally

    Is it possible to get your significant other other or a friend to diplomatically let them know that there’s a very nice pregnant lady very much in need of rest next door? I’d maybe try to handle it in person once (not you…you have enough on your plate … but maybe a family member?) before going to the police. And, I wholly second the noise machine recommendation — especially for after your little one arrives. Our (now 14-month-old) son started sleeping much better once we got one. Totally worth the money! Best of luck!

  • holmes

    This sounds like a domestic situation, not a neighborly “hey can you turn down your music” type of thing. I think it’s important and necessary for the couple to have contact with the police in case one them needs help. If not, it will hopefully at least embarrass them into piping down.

  • DC Mama

    Newborns don’t have great hearing and will have some fluid in their ears, so the noise should not be a concern if it is ongoing, at least for the first couple months (we actually used to run the vacuum cleaner to get my daughter to fall asleep). After that, get a sleep sheep for the baby, and sound machine for yourself. But you should really call the police – I have had to do it a few times in my old neighborhood, and they came out right away and very peacefully and calmly broke up the party(ies).


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