The mother has previously apologized for her 13-year-old son opening my mail. I have previously reported her to Child Protective Services, after hearing her beating him through our shared apartment wall. Today my Amazon box was completely slit open. Do I call CPS again? police? landlord? Montgomery County, MD.
I live in an apartment building, and several of my walls are shared with another apartment whose door opens into the same space as mine -- i.e., they have a large welcome mat and it covers the space where I might put one. Packages are delivered into this shared area, so conceivably it could be confusing whose they are, but in my ~1.5 years here they've always been touching one door or the other. And, you know, labeled.
The neighbors are a mother and son. Since maybe summer 2013 I have periodically heard her beating him late at night, but starting this spring it became more frequent and severe. You can't make me feel any worse than I already do about not reporting it until this June, and I don't want to get sidetracked with details, but suffice it to say that it was fairly triggering for me. It was not until I made an audio recording and listened to it half a dozen times that I was sure it was bad as I thought.
Circa April of this year, the mother knocked on my door to apologize for her son "accidentally" opening my Graze box and eating one of the snacks. He seems to be home alone for a few hours unsupervised after school, and a few times before that the plastic wrappers on my Graze boxes had been broken, so I didn't believe it was an accident. Regardless, I found myself being super nice about it, as far as ending the conversation with "Have a good weekend!" -- because I did not want to listen to her beating him and feel responsible for provoking it. That reaction was a bit of a wake-up call.
So after I made the recording I took a day off work to call CPS. Before I played it over the phone the social worker was saying things like "If we accept this report..." but afterward she asked me if I had anyone to "process the situation with". She also said that based on what she heard the mother could be charged with neglect, but since spanking is legal in Maryland it would not be considered abuse unless there were bruises. She and the field case worker called back several times for more details in an attempt to track him down at school that day.
As it turned out, I made the call a few days before the end of the school year. A day or two afterward, both mother and son vanished. Two weeks later the mother returned. The son did not return until a week or two ago when school started. I have heard some yelling, but it sounds like it's coming from a room that doesn't share a wall with my space, and I can't tell if it has been accompanied by beating.
Today, I arrived home to find my Amazon box (UPS delivery) slit open, right through the string-reinforced packing tape, with bits of inflated plastic strewn around the hallway. Of course there's no proof, and there are other neighbors and children in the building, but I feel certain it was this boy. Nothing was missing, so I guess he wasn't interested in my oral care supplies or dish soap?
Anyway. I intend to report any further abuse that I hear, but in the meantime I need the interference with my mail to stop. Possible actions:
-- Talk to the mother. Normally, yes. Given the situation, NO. Although she has seemed meek when I've spoken with her in passing, the person I have heard beating her child is scary. I don't want to give her a reason to abuse him, and I can imagine myself screaming at her or punching her if we got into a discussion about the abuse.
-- Talk to the child. No. That is just way above my pay grade. I have my own issues and just cannot be any kind of resource or mentor for him. (On top of that... although he's small, the way that he looks at me... suggests that he's starting to go through puberty, and it skeeves me out beyond belief.)
-- Move. No. After the neighbor issues, my only complaint about living here is the lack of a dishwasher. The landlord/manager is great, it's cheap, it's close to work.
-- Talk to the landlord. I think that this is technically not his problem, right? But I've been thinking about giving him a heads-up anyway. He's a nice guy, and as far as I can tell manages this property (+ others?) full-time. He is extremely responsive to maintenance issues, etc. etc.
-- Not have packages delivered. Not a permanent solution. I can't have them delivered to work. Shopping online saves me from having to deal with the awful traffic around here and is a pretty important coping mechanism, especially now that my anxiety and depression are spiking from employment uncertainty.
-- Call CPS again. I'm planning to do this when they're open during business hours tomorrow. But I don't know if they'll be able to do anything. I have no new evidence of abuse, it's just that it seems like this kid still needs some kind of help, and I don't think that criminalizing him is a good solution...
-- Call the police? I really don't know how this would go. It's certainly what I would do if an adult neighbor were messing with my mail, but I think the kid's behavior is a byproduct of the bad home situation. Also perhaps worth mentioning that the neighbors are black (I'm white), so it's hard not to wonder if police interactions might go poorly for them.
Any other ideas? Thoughts about what CPS and/or the police might be able or willing to do?