Stranger came up our driveway twice. Should I call the police?
April 16, 2014 2:03 PM   Subscribe

My brother tells me that he saw a white pickup truck park outside our house. An older guy in his 60's or 70's walked up the driveway about 3/4 of the way, turned away from our house, stood there watching the street for about 10 seconds, then walked down. He repeated all of these actions one more time, then left. We had no cars at the house at the time, so I'm assuming he thought no one was home. Considering he didn't knock and came up twice, I'm worried about this and am wondering if it would be going too far to call the police. Can you think of any other possible reasons for someone to act in this way? Details inside.

Extra details: From what my brother tells me, the vehicle had a small symbol on it but he couldn't make it out. He said it might have been a city symbol. He thinks it might be the animal warden or an irritated neighbor, since we have had complaints about our cats roaming the street in the past and the biggest offender got outside yesterday. The man didn't seem to check the inside of our house and instead seemed to be surveying the street, so we wonder if he was checking to see if our cats were in another lawn. But if it was the animal warden he would at least try knocking or leave something, right?

We were also considering the possibility that he was contemplating a crime. But from my brother's description, the man looked old enough to possibly be retired, was decently dressed (not a suit, but not t-shirt. My brother doesn't remember many of the details) and did not seem the type. Also, would a guy really come up a driveway in broad daylight if he was considering a robbery? And why would he do so twice, and only look at the street?

Any and all advice, or other possible explanations for his behavior would be appreciated.
posted by Thanquol180 to Law & Government (27 answers total)
Senitility? Do you have a nice view?

I understand that its weird & creepy but I can't see what the police would do now. You can't arrest someone for considering a crime. Next time have your brother open the door and ask "uh can I help you?" to get an explanation.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:09 PM on April 16, 2014

Do you rent? My landlord has sent people to check on the house periodically either to see how it's looking or to check on stuff prior to renovation for sale.

It's likely to be someone from the city, if you ask me, or someone contracted to your power company, phone company, etc, looking to see what kind of fix they need to do. If they were casing the house for a robbery they would have done a perimeter or sat in the car longer.
posted by blnkfrnk at 2:10 PM on April 16, 2014

Maybe he wanted a better view of something (a nice house detail? a pretty hillside?) across the street.

Doesn't sound like something to be concerned about. If he shows up again, you or your brother could talk to him. He isn't doing anything wrong, but he is on your property.
posted by myntu at 2:11 PM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

also, how old is your neighborhood? We used to get people all the time coming up and staring, and it was because they lived there in nineteen-dickety-two.
posted by blnkfrnk at 2:13 PM on April 16, 2014 [28 favorites]

Are your house-numbers clearly indicated? This sounds like something I would do if I couldn't see a house number and was looking for a particular house, and I'm not an OAP.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 2:13 PM on April 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

If he was the animal warden, he might or might not have decided to knock, depending on what he saw and what he thought he should do about the complaint.
posted by randomkeystrike at 2:18 PM on April 16, 2014

Maybe he used to live there and wanted to see it again. Maybe he hadn't brought the address he was supposed to go to with him and was thinking "Is that Joe's house? It doesn't look quite right..."

I wouldn't worry about it, and I worry about things.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:18 PM on April 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

I wouldn't call the police. He could have been lost or at the wrong house. The houses on my street are clearly marked and I get people coming to my house when they meant to go to my neighbor's all the time.
posted by cecic at 2:18 PM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Dude could have just been lost. Sounds like what I would do if I were trying to find a house I'd been to once, a while ago. If I were questioning whether I'd successfully made my way back to the same place, I might get my bearings by checking the view back toward the street.
posted by jessicapierce at 2:18 PM on April 16, 2014

Keep an eye out, but don't call the police*.

*Unless there is a reason to fear you have left out.
posted by jjmoney at 2:19 PM on April 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would also wonder if he was demented. Maybe make a note of the plate and call if it happens again. He could have Alzheimer's and be looking for his home, and be lost!
posted by stillmoving at 2:20 PM on April 16, 2014

I don't really know what you would tell the police if you called. A person walked up to your door twice but ultimately left after doing nothing?

I have engaged in far sketchier behavior on many occasions, and I'm glad nobody called the cops on me.

Re house numbers, one "far sketchier" situation I'm thinking of is the time I was stopping by a friends house that I had never visited before, my GPS said "your destination is on the left", but none of the houses had clear enough house numbers for me to tell which house was hers without getting out of the car and ambling around a bit. So maybe something like that?

If it was a city official or something, maybe somebody called in a stray animal/noise complaint/meter read/whatever and there was a typo in the address?
posted by Sara C. at 2:20 PM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sounds to me like he was looking for a specific house and had the wrong one. I don't know why people immediately leap to senility or call the police.
posted by Librarypt at 2:21 PM on April 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

My vote he was lost or misremembered the location of the house he was looking for. I have done such things before when going to either a new place or a place I was not routinely familiar with.

I don't think a single thing about this is weird, let alone worthy of a police report.
posted by zizzle at 2:26 PM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Perhaps a real estate or insurance agent or appraiser.
posted by Corvid at 2:39 PM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

He left the street right afterwards, so I don't think he was looking for a neighbor's house. It definitely wasn't a former owner. But yeah, maybe I'm over thinking this. I'll keep an eye out for it and not call the police this time around. Thanks!
posted by Thanquol180 at 2:40 PM on April 16, 2014

I'm currently house hunting and have been spotted by at least one neighbour - resulting in my scurrying away - when I have been trying to scope out the interiors of houses on a street I liked to see what they had done with the space. (Although I might also be demented...) It doesn't sound like anything sinister.
posted by billiebee at 2:46 PM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

He could have been a city inspector coming to follow up on a complaint on a code violation. Perhaps your lawn was a little too long and a neighbor complained that it was three feet high and full of vermin. The inspector saw this was not the case and left after double checking he got the right place.
posted by munchingzombie at 2:47 PM on April 16, 2014

3/4 of the way, turned away from our house, stood there watching the street for about 10 seconds,

This was the bit that gave me pause. If he were "casing the joint", he might have been checking the visibility of your home from the street and vice versa.

Or he might just be an odd old bird.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 2:53 PM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

My father is 75 and this could easily be about him. He just roams and reminisces, man, and boy does it ever creep people out. He probably used to live in the area.

There's no elderly cat burglars out there so I really wouldn't worry about it.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 3:32 PM on April 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Look, I'm sure the most probable answer is his intent was harmless, but that's really not for you to decide.

Call the police on the non-emergency line and describe what happened. An officer will probably come and take a statement. With the knowledge that he is in the area, if they see someone matching his description they will stop and question him, and they can decide if his intent is harmless.

This is (partly) what you pay taxes for. Police prescence and contact prevents crimes before they ever have a chance to happen, if not at your property, then possibly at a neighbor's property.
posted by vignettist at 4:54 PM on April 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

He left the street right afterwards, so I don't think he was looking for a neighbor's house.

Sounds like he was lost - could well have been a case of 'right number, wrong street'.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 8:44 PM on April 16, 2014

Thanquol180: "He left the street right afterwards, so I don't think he was looking for a neighbor's house. It definitely wasn't a former owner. But yeah, maybe I'm over thinking this."

He might have been on the wrong street. It's an easy mistake to make in both grid systems (be off by one or east instead of west) and developments where all the streets are variations on a root word. Here's how it works:

Mitheral is meeting Joe who lives at 678 Bar Street and pulls in front of 678 Foo Street. As he walks up the drive way he starts thinking "Where the heck is Joe's truck? Wait, is this Joe's house?" Mitheral walks back down the driveway to get a better view of the house number/street sign/look for land mark. Then he walks back up the driveway having confirmed whatever it was he was looking for. Gets 3/4 quarters of the way up and then convinces himself that Joe definitely had a two car garage not a single (or whatever) so it must be the wrong house. So back to his truck and drives off.

It sure as heck wouldn't hurt to call the police with your concern but unless he fits the description of a person of interest they are unlikely to actually do anything.
posted by Mitheral at 8:49 PM on April 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

I don't know, of course, but if it was a white truck with a symbol on it, my guess would be that he's an employee of the water company or electric company who's checking out the property for some future project like gas meter replacement or work on the water lines, perhaps under the road. You may see some surveyors or road crew setups before long.

I suppose he could have been a danger but I wouldn't feel too nervous yet myself.
posted by aryma at 9:56 PM on April 16, 2014

My friend used to take pictures of houses for a real estate appraiser. I rode along a few times to keep him company. The appraiser would give him a list of addresses, and off he'd go. Most places were fine. He'd park, take his shots, scribble some notes, and be off. Some places were not fine. Neighbors or residents (worse!) would confront him and make various demands (I demand you delete those photos!).

Point is, not everybody who looks like they are up to no good is actually up to no good. If the old guy comes back? That's when you should worry, maybe. Until then, it could be anything, most of which are perfectly innocent.
posted by notyou at 10:52 PM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Like Mitheral, I think it sounds like he was a workman expecting to see something he didn't see, then when Joe didn't drive up, he shrugged it off as a failed meet, but tried once again to convince himself that he had the right place; and with still no Joe showing up, he decided he really was at the wrong address and left to try Peach Circle instead of Peach Lane or whatever.
posted by Anitanola at 2:43 AM on April 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

land surveyor, landscaper, home remodeler, electric company -- there are lots of reasons to squint at a property from a distance, all innocuous enough. I wouldn't sweat it.
posted by acm at 11:49 AM on April 17, 2014

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