Neighbor feels threatened, asked for help
November 12, 2012 8:56 AM   Subscribe

My upstairs neighbor stopped me on the street today to describe a man that she thinks is following her. She said that at various places she's been going with her son, she's seen him parked watching her. She sounded very worried. What can I do to help?

The family is from Mexico, they speak broken English, and I'm not sure what their status is (I only mention this because I am admittedly ignorant of how that affects going to the authorities in these situations—if they aren't here legally. It doesn't matter to me, I just want them to feel safe in their neighborhood.). The couple has a 4 year old boy.

She described the man as sketchy looking (my words), in a white van that has been a various locations throughout the neighborhood watching her as she took her son places.

I didn't really know what to say. I advised her to inform our landlords, who live downstairs, asked her if she had a phone (which she did) and advised her to call 911 if she felt threatened. I also let her know that I'd keep an eye out. She seemed fine to go inside the house at that, so I parted ways.

Is there anything else that I can do? What more can she do in this situation? We're in Chicago if that helps. Thanks.
posted by Sreiny to Human Relations (7 answers total)
I think you've done the best thing. There's really not much more you can do - if you see someone hanging around and if you feel comfortable you can let her know, but other then that going to the police yourself won't do much.

If she's worried the best thing to do is file a report with the police. Unless the gentleman does anything threatening I don't believe there is much they can do, but the report would be on file *if* any does happen.
posted by Danithegirl at 8:59 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Take a picture of him and the van, license plate visible. If is too scary to be obvious, don't be. I would then take it to the police and mention this stranger is hanging out in the neighborhood and you are worried. Or ask her what to do with it.

If he is just a weirdo the photo taking will freak him out and he will move on.
posted by cairnoflore at 9:04 AM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

If she can provide a better description, it might be worth a shot posting it in a local neighborhood watch group so that other people can also keep an eye out for him. My Chicago neighborhood has a very strong presence on Facebook and Everyblock.
posted by theraflu at 9:04 AM on November 12, 2012

Their unknown status makes knowing how to contact the authorities difficult. I am not super familiar with immigration laws so i'll leave that to others.

Have you seen this van? If so you could make a non emergency prowler report.

Is there a neighborhood association? As a renter I am typically blind to things like this but local home owners generally know what is up. If nothing else you can bring it to their attention.

I'd also let any other near by rental neighbors know. I've had neighbors in dense rental communities in Boston or Cleveland knock on my door to give me a "if you see this car around call the police" or "look out for this loose mastiff" kind of warning. I've even seen things like that posted in the mail room. I never felt like these warnings were a bother or a worry. I'd engage those around you.
posted by French Fry at 9:04 AM on November 12, 2012

You can help by keeping your eyes open. If you see a sketchoid in a white van, write down the plate number. If he seems to be hanging around, or acting weird in some way, make a report with the police.

Call the non-emergency number, explain that this guy has freaked out a neighbor and that you're noticing him loitering around. Tell them you want to make a report for informational purposes.

Talk with other neighbors. Engage them. This way you can all look out for each other.

It's hard when someone is in the country illegally to engage the legal system, so if you can be the go-between, and make your own report, that really helps.

Just being nice to your neighbor and offering to help is a HUGE deal, and you're a mench for wanting to help.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:08 AM on November 12, 2012 [5 favorites]

Here is a brochure in Spanish from the National Center for Victims of Crime Stalking Resource Center. English version. Has some basic tips for people who believe they are being stalked. The big challenge is that there are not a lot of support resources for people who are being stalked outside of an intimate partner relationship (or former) (aka domestic violence) or a sexual violence situation. If that comes up, I would absolutely refer her to the National Domestic Violence Hotline (or call for her) - they have Spanish language capabilities (I linked to the Spanish language page). They can find her a referral for a local agency.
posted by anya32 at 9:19 AM on November 12, 2012 [9 favorites]

Sometimes there are local community organizations that can assist with social support for new immigrants in an environment that may have language resources and won't worry about documentation. Other possible options are women's groups or organizations focused on women's safety/domestic violence. If you have seen any posters or flyers in your neighborhood from any groups like this, maybe either give her the number or call them yourself and ask for advice.
posted by artdesk at 11:05 PM on November 12, 2012

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