How to stop people from peeing publicly near my home?
September 11, 2010 10:30 PM   Subscribe

How do you stop your neighborhood from becoming everyone's public urinal?

Yes, you heard it right. My boyfriend has the unfortunate problem of living in an area so prolific with offenders that there is a constant stench of urine every single time we enter or exit his apartment building. In the last two days alone, we have seen 4 different men urinating either on his block or one block over, in open view of plenty passing by. Is there any way we can stop this from continuing?

Random ideas between us have been thrown about, including calling 311 enough times to hopefully bring about a larger police presence (would that even work?), and the more vigilante idea of taking photos of the pee-ers in action and posting them around the neighborhood with warning messages. Anyone have any experience with this problem?

(Also, this is not really a bad area. There are a few bars/clubs and a homeless shelter nearby but not in any means a rundown place to live.)
posted by pinksoftsoap to Human Relations (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My first thought was to figure out which bar or what have you is releasing the urinators, and then I'd place an old junkyard toilet at some point on the route from that bar to your boyfriend's block to divert the urinators. Just puttin' it out there.
posted by ejfox at 10:37 PM on September 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

It would be really helpful to know who's doing the peeing, and when. Drunken bar patrons late at night? People who stay at the shelter?

If it's bar patrons, increased police presence is probably your best bet. A few tickets for public urination will probably result in a dramatic reduction.

Homeless shelters are frequently closed during the day, leaving their patrons with few bathroom options. This might be something to take up at a community meeting or with your legislative representative.

The situation may change for the better as fall and accompanying wet weather set in.
posted by charmcityblues at 10:38 PM on September 11, 2010 [5 favorites]

Paste a row of American flags next to the ground across the entire length of the wall. Make sure the flags are visible from a few dozen feet away.

(This isn't entirely my idea; Japanese people do a similar thing and it's very effective.)
posted by shii at 10:55 PM on September 11, 2010 [12 favorites]

Seconding the city council. This sort of thing is their problem. The obvious solution is putting in a public toilet somewhere nearby.

Also the landlord: putting in garden edging and some flowering bushes against the building wall will reduce the smell, it will make the building look nicer, it will divert people who don't want to step into the plants, and those who still pee there will at least be benefiting the environment a bit.

All else fails, maybe rig up some kind of detector system that, if it detects moisture (or movement), activates a lawn sprinkler mounted on the side of the building. Also put in a second one on your roof that deactivates the first detector so the sprinkler doesn't go off when it rains.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:00 PM on September 11, 2010

You might consider noting all the places where this is going on, and attempting to organize the people who own the buildings/businesses, so that there's a daily hose-down, and get some more lights out there. The cleaner the place, and the brighter the lights at night, the less peeing there's going to be, and the daily hose-downs will keep the smell from becoming overwhelming. It's all about maintenance, really.

Hell, if you really care this much, become a force for good: Get yourself a cart with a water tank, paint it a bright color and put a well-made officious sign on it related to what you're trying to accomplish, and do the hosing down yourself, every morning before businesses open. If you time it when businesses are opening, you might start meeting the proprietors, and perhaps they'll start becoming part of the effort in that fashion.

In fact, if you make the pee-friendly places clean and well-lit, except for a few specific dark areas where you post cheery signs about not peeing, bar patrons will likely go out of their way to pee in those few locations, feeling like they're sticking it to you -- and then it'll be easier to clean up, because you'll only have to hit those few places.

Of course, if what you really want is for people to stop peeing, all you can do is try to get the city council to step up police coverage on foot, and odds are that isn't going to go over very well unless the folks in charge are trying to close local bars or otherwise bring the place "up."
posted by davejay at 11:01 PM on September 11, 2010

I'm assuming from the 311 comment that you're in New York City.

First of all, 311 will not bring a police presence. Seriously, we've got a police shortage as it is, they're not going to come arrest people for peeing. There are actual crimes right now.

Are these drunk NYU guys? Homeless people? Where are the people peeing coming from? In my neighborhood, the offender was a nightclub in an area that wasn't that populated. We took the nightclub to task because we could demonstrate cause and effect.

I'd suggest going to the local community board, but they're going to ask you where the mysterious peeing men are coming from. If you don't know, try asking a neighborhood blog - and don't say there isn't one, there isn't a block in NYC that doesn't have a local blog hanging out its shingle. Once you know where it's coming from, then you could try talking to them, but you'd need more than just you and your boyfriend.
posted by micawber at 11:01 PM on September 11, 2010

Response by poster: It's hard to tell what sort of people they are; they are always single men, acting alone. It is probably a variety of folk - one of yesterday's urinators was dressed business casual with a laptop-style business bag peeing brazenly in broad daylight. I'm sure some definitely come from the homeless shelter down the street as well.
posted by pinksoftsoap at 11:25 PM on September 11, 2010

Use a hose to wash the urine away. Start doing this while the gentleman are mid act..
posted by nestor_makhno at 12:40 AM on September 12, 2010 [6 favorites]

Run a wire along the wall just above knee height with a couple of insulating connectors on it like you see on a farm.
No one knows if there is electricity or not but no one is going to try it.
posted by adamvasco at 12:45 AM on September 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Anywhere there's a noticeable stench, cover the ground with at least four inches of woodchip mulch. The breakdown products of old piss will then be absorbed by the mulch instead of being released into the air. Every six months or so, bag up the mulch and sell it off, for twice what you paid for it, as Genuine New York Street Organic Fertilizer.
posted by flabdablet at 1:16 AM on September 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Make stickers from this picture and place them at the site of stench. (There are better versions of a similar picture to be found... I will keep searching)
posted by molecicco at 4:10 AM on September 12, 2010

Yes, you have options! 1, 2, 3.
posted by molecicco at 4:15 AM on September 12, 2010

Webcam plus website and out the offenders?

Here in Minneapolis, I'd call 311 (which isn't only available in NYC) and my city council-person. I live near the University, and we used to have a problem with new students not knowing the recycling rules, and their landlords not caring, so there would be huge mounds of rejected recycling in the alleys. Repeated calls got the city to start enforcing the laws about trash and fining the landlords. Now many of the landlords hand out rule-sheets for recycling and things are better.

Do you have a neighborhood association already? Talk to them about it and get more people involved. If not, form one.
posted by DaveP at 4:17 AM on September 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

When I lived in Japan and it was daylight I'd make a big production out of frowning and trying to catch a glimpse of the pee-ers um, pee organ. I wouldn't do it in the US, but there's another idea for you.
posted by vincele at 6:21 AM on September 12, 2010

It sounds like what you have is like what happens with cats - this is now The Place We Pee. Regular well-dressed dudes in the middle of the day? Yuck.

So! Do what you do with cats - give them a better place to pee while making the wrong spot So Not The Place We Pee, Ever.

Your friends are the local neighborhood association and landlords. I like the rent-a-camera (my city has a van with cameras attached all over it - the opposite of a stakeout vehicle, basically) and the flags and flowers. Repaint the wall and invite neighborhood kids to put a mural on it. Put up a 9/11 memorial. Something that says "how much you have to pee is irrelevant; don't do it here." 311 can help get you in touch with the people who need to be inspired and/or asked for help. Depending on your town you might even get a city council type on your side (easier where I live because they're all at-large, and deal with issues instead of regions.)

Meanwhile, someone probably needs to provide a better urination spot for these people, since you can't fix the entire neighborhood to make it all So Not The Place (just like with cats, you have to break the association with the current wrong spots and simultaneously provide better options.) You don't happen to have any 24 hour gas stations nearby, do you? This part is harder. I hear one British town resorted to pop-up urinals in the middle of the street (for drunkards only, apparently.)

A "this is the fine for public urination and we are watching" campaign at the local shelters and bars might also help. Depends on the local culture and how big the fine is.
posted by SMPA at 6:34 AM on September 12, 2010

You could make multiple signs that state that the area is watched by surveillance cameras and the place them in the pee areas.
posted by cropshy at 7:29 AM on September 12, 2010

Not sure exactly where you are in NYC, but if you live near McSorley's you are fighting a losing battle. That entire block (and intersecting alleyway) has been known as "McSorley's peepee lane" since the dawn of time.
posted by elizardbits at 7:46 AM on September 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

Can you put up a camera? The homeless won't care if you post their pictures, but Pisser of the Day on a blog might shame the bar patrons.

Get your city council reps office involved, and also make sure that the street gets power-washed or that a streetsweeper comes around. Once the stuff dries, the smell will linger.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:28 AM on September 12, 2010

Does the area smell like piss? If so, it's probably encouraging more public urination. (see Broken Window Syndrome) Hose that sidewalk off every morning. If it's not your sidewalk, talk to the people who maintain it.

Otherwise the signs mentioning surveillance and the fine for public urination are good, cheap solutions. I'd install some motion triggered lights if it was feasible.

I usually just yell 'Zip it up before I break it off! You pissing on my house!' and it does the trick. This of course depends on your neighborhood and how well you feel you can handle yourself. It's a lot better if you're scary.
posted by Ookseer at 12:12 PM on September 12, 2010

Paste a row of American flags next to the ground across the entire length of the wall. Make sure the flags are visible from a few dozen feet away.

(This isn't entirely my idea; Japanese people do a similar thing and it's very effective.)

In Rohinton Mistry's Tales From Firozsha Bagh, a similar solution was used: a mural of Hindu gods & goddesses was painted on the wall in question.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:54 PM on September 12, 2010

Seeing you live in New York - does your boyfriend live near a popular bar? Maybe you could go over there and talk to the owner/mgr about it. Bars are usually good about at least trying to keep the neighbors happy.

If he lives near one of the nightlife conduits like Third Ave in Murray Hill, Bleecker Street, Bedford Ave, or probably anywhere in the Lower East Side, there's probably not much you can do but factor that in when it's time to renew the lease.

If he lives in a part of town where there are a lot of homeless people or seedy junkie sorts of folks, there might also be nothing much he can do except think about moving to a nicer neighborhood.

If none of the above, perhaps the landlord would let him put up some kind of "ummm, hellooooooo, this is not a public restroom?!!!" sort of sign. I've seen that sort of thing (more for dogs than humans, but still) around brownstone brooklyn where people tend to be on their own in regards to keeping their property free of icky elements.

Also, it's New York City, AKA one big giant urinal. If you can't afford a nicer neighborhood/better building/more attentive super, maybe it's time to develop an exit strategy. That's where I'm at, myself, at this point.
posted by Sara C. at 2:10 PM on September 12, 2010

While it's not actually true that you can die from peeing on the third rail of a subway, I think a few well placed "caution: live wires" signs might help.
posted by Ragged Richard at 4:07 PM on September 12, 2010

Motion-activated floodlights?
posted by Sublimity at 4:55 PM on September 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

What about a few "this area under surveillance" and "no trespassing" signs? They might pass up your place for another.

Also see what you can do to make the place look and smell as clean as possible (broken window theory).

Is public urination considered indecent exposure where you live? Here in New Orleans, people (mostly drunk tourists and college kids) get arrested for that all the time.

Do you have a neighborhood association or any type of community group? Getting people together to combat this will be easier than just you two. Also, if you know someone who is friendly with the police (is that even possible in NYC?) can you get a couple of beat cops to adjust their route to patrol your street? People aren't going to risk peeing in the street if there is a good chance a cop is going to walk by.
posted by radioamy at 5:26 PM on September 12, 2010

Has anybody mentioned the motion-activated sprinklers yet?
posted by canine epigram at 7:16 PM on September 12, 2010

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