We Have a Neighborhood Bully

Neighborhood bullying at an extreme scale

This is troubling, and frankly, a little anxiety-provoking.

Here's the situation: I live on one of Alameda's quaint little "courts." It is paved (more or less) and you can drive along it (in contrast to, e.g., Marti Rae Ct.), but it's technically a "private street"; it's not city-maintained, it's part of our titled property (each of us owns a little chunk of it), but it's an "easement," in that we have to allow limited, reasonable access to service and safety vehicles. Our (my neighbors and I) understanding, however, is that access encompasses "in and out," but not necessarily "through," and that we can take reasonable steps to hinder casual through traffic from drivers wanting to use the street as a shortcut.

Through traffic wasn't such a big deal when I moved in eight years ago this week, but the strangest thing has happened since then. All these small people seem to have appeared, almost like magic. At last count, among the eight families on the court, there are three children under 6 and one 10-year-old who would love to be able to play ball in the street, despite its plethora of really bad bounces. And, by the way, a few cats.

A few months ago, one of the new mothers had what turned out to be an inspired idea. She took this old, beat-up traffic cone she had, put a hand-made "no thru traffic" sign on it, and placed it at the end of the court.

I was skeptical at first, but I was increasingly impressed by the extent to which through traffic had been reduced. Apparently — even though, if you look at it, it's easy enough to maneuver around the cone — people feel it makes it just a bit too inconvenient, and choose instead to go the additional 100 ft. (and that's all it is) to the real intersection. But it turns out we seem to have a neighbor…

Somebody apparently disagrees with our opinion about our ability to abate traffic, but is too much of a coward to confront anyone in person. One night in June, the cone disappeared. The mother who placed it there originally found it, a few days later, in someone's pickup truck nearby. There are details here about which I am not entirely clear, but the cone was returned, and placed back at the end of the court. No action was taken, as the MWPITO was concerned about retaliation. (That's why I'm trying to be as vague as possible.) Then, at the end of June, the cone disappeared again.

That pissed me off. I don't have any kids myself, but I'm a "it takes a village" kind of person, and besides, I live here too. So I ambled over to Hawkins, the traffic sign place you can see off the freeway in Albany, and bought a new, official-looking cone and a little professionally-printed sign to go with it. I put my name and address on them, and added that removal would be treated as theft. I then called APD and requested an officer come by and take a report that I was, in fact, placing a cone and sign there for the purpose of traffic abatement and local safety.

Last night, late, I heard someone race down the court. This morning, we discovered the cone was gone. Worse than that, this reprobate, this gutless wonder, this weaselly coward (apologies to actual weasels), this nutless monkey, dumped spaghetti sauce on my neighbor's car and egged their porch. We called the police and made a report, but we had no hard evidence of the actual event. Yet.

I feel violated. I mean, my car wasn't hit, the cone's cost was minimal, but I feel almost as violated as my neighbor, I think. And a little scared. Not enough to keep me from doing something, however, if I can figure out just what to do. My first thought is to get another cone and sign; replacing it would feel defiant but might incite the nutless monkey to escalate, but I think I will. I don't know if any of us on the court are in a position to set up a camera; I'd love to do that.

We've been discussing more permanent solutions to the traffic issue, but that's not the point. It's one thing for someone to be rude and stupid, to see a traffic cone on a small street like ours with a "no thru traffic" sign and drive through anyway, no doubt thumbing his nose and enjoying the feeling of finally having beaten the system and gotten away with it, at least this one, trivial little time. Not much you can do about that, is how I feel, no point getting bent out of shape about it.

But it's something else entirely to steal someone's property, to deface and vandalize someone's car, to deface and vandalize someone's home. Their. Home. If this were Florida, we could legally shoot him.

We don't know who did this. Yet. Lucky for him, 'cause, y'know, some people think I'm nuts, but I know some people who are really crazy.

I'm just sayin'

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hobnob July 16, 2012 at 06:26 PM
get a video camera, place a few in cars (especially the car that gets hit) so you have it facing the cone and the cars getting hit at night. Then get some thumb tacks and nails and place them in the intersection and over the street during the night time. As to position them, you will know you can either damage the tires of the car that rolls around or the shoes', bikes, skate boards of the perpetrator. Of course, tell your neighbours that this is being done so they know where the booby traps are being laid out. As for the neighbour that is related to the vandal, you will have to sneakily do some of these things so that this person doesn't get tipped off. It's one thing to steal the cone, they are cheap and replacible, it's another thing to deface private property, for that I'd charge the culprit once I catch them.
Alamedian July 16, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Jeff, since you & neighbors own the street, can you permanently close one end of it, to basically turn it into a dead-end street? Emergency vehicles can still get in from the other side.
joel July 17, 2012 at 05:36 AM
Jeff I also have a couples of acid resistant , camera housing again free .
Kim Hilliker July 23, 2012 at 02:20 AM
I would recommend that the neighbor getting their car targeted invest in a car cover just for the time being. We had issues like this going on and the only thing that stopped them was to actually be watching, filming and calling the cops the minute it is done-otherwise the police will tell you that the person doing all this can drive through your street anytime they want as long as they are not violating a law. What we also did was to follow the car that did it(we have drivers that speed like you can't believe in a residential neighborhood) and after they parked we went up to the house and told the parents that the speed was in excess and then it stopped. Just be careful.
Florida Transplant May 28, 2013 at 01:52 PM
I love living on Alameda, but it has been my experience (and I moved here from Florida) that there are quite a few people on the island who are a little off center. I've had numerous run-ins with either neighbors or other islanders who do things to you that, anywhere else, would get you slapped. Example: At the shoreline park trails, where dogs are supposed to be on leash, I've had people's (unleashed) dogs rush my dogs and I (and we're all wearing our leashes) and chase us while we're jogging. Then, when I turn to try and block their dog from mine the owners actually yell at *me* for my efforts at keeping their dogs at bay! Typically when we're 10ft from the signs informing you of the leash law. Or the guy who, at the parking garage, felt that he could come up to my car and punch my window while I was parking for some traffic slight (be it real or perceived). I got out of the car to confront him and he took off running (literally, like his tail was on fire). No hoodlum, he, just some regular-looking middle aged man slamming on my car window and yelling at me for something (Im not even sure what). The latest adventure is my new neighbor. I moved and my dogs were in *my* backyard at 2pm on a Sunday. It was our second day and we were in the middle of moving and the dogs were scared and one was whining and howling. Well our neighbor comes up to my car as I'm opening my door, puts her hand ON my car door and leans in and gets in my face about my dog. This was my first time meeting her. I understand being annoyed by noise and such but there is an appropriate way to handle things.. And then, when I politely respond that I was sorry and would handle the dogs, she proceeds to follow up that with further harassment about how I parked in my driveway (mine, not hers). By then she could tell that she'd annoyed me. So, since I was annoyed (yet still polite, just cold and clearly uninterested in conversation) she called my landlord and told him she felt threatened even though I hadn't done or said anything rude or threatening! In Florida, (or hell, in Oakland) behavior like this is likely to get you seriously hurt. I've never seen people act as bizarre as they do on Alameda. Not without consequences. So, I can believe they'd steal your road cone and put spaghetti sauce on someone's car. I love much about the island, but there are some special people on it. Good luck.


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