how concerned should I be about my neighbor?
May 21, 2015 7:28 PM   Subscribe

I'm a 30ish female who lives alone (well, with an little old dog) in a small studio house, in a semi-urban residential area of LA's eastside. The other day, I was out walking my dog and got into a unsettling conversation with my across-the-street-neighbor – a registered sex offender, turns out. I'm not afraid, exactly, but I really have no idea how to assess the risk of living alone across the street from this guy. (Potentially triggering.)

(This might be a little confusing, because it involved parsing bizarre drunken rambling.)

I've lived here for a little under three months. Had never spoken to the guy (50ish) until this conversation, which occurred about a week ago. He motioned me over and would not stop rambling for half an hour -- while waving around a several-inch pocket knife he'd been gardening with. He brought up the sex offender thing within the first couple minutes – how he's not a rapist, the foreign object was his fingers, it happened a long time ago. Um, thanks?

I went home and immediately looked up my address on Family Watchdog, and yep: SEXUAL PENETRATION OF VICTIM WITH FOREIGN OBJECT BY FORCE OR FEAR. (No clue why I didn't look before I move in.) I can't find a date of offense, but the guy claimed it was years ago.

His reason for talking to me seemed to be a recent fight with a neighbor couple. Stemmed from a misunderstanding, ended with male neighbor yelling in the street about the guy's sex offender status and calling the police on him. He wondered if I'd heard about it. Also, the night before, apparently he locked himself out, got upset and broke a bottle in the street. Wondered if I knew about that, too.

Despite the knife, I didn't really feel threatened or afraid; he wasn't trying to flirt or overtly scare me -- more like preemptively downplay the charges and incidents. He definitely seemed drunk and/or high, and repeatedly talked about how he's drunk and high all the time. Every time I started to excuse myself he'd switch topics; or to drift toward home, he'd follow me into the street.

Oh, and over and over again, he asked me to let him cut the weeds in my yard. I'd noticed him before, because he compulsively gardens – the succulents & agave in his front yard are missing most of their leaves (sawed off with his pocket knife, apparently). His house is an old, semi-broken-down family home where he lives with an invalid parent. It's surrounded by gates and tall hedges, and the yard is crammed with all sorts of weird hoardery stuff.

Everyone I've described this confrontation to has a different reaction. My sister is particularly freaked out and suspects meth because of the gardening, which I thought about too. Others think he's just a socially maladjusted drunk, and give the registered offender thing the benefit of the doubt.

He was very aware of my living here; he also referred to my having a roommate, which I didn't refute. He might have meant my girlfriend, who stays over a couple nights a week. I don't know. I do feel vulnerable in this little house. But then, a lot of people live nearby – right across the street and next door to him, there's an apartment building with all its balconies facing my house. I am isolated but not.

So like… what would you do? Relax? Be more vigilant, maybe buy an alarm and pepper spray? Break my lease? That seems like such an overreaction – and way overwhelming given my life situation, crazy work deadlines, and still-recent move. Should I talk to my landlord? (He lives in a house beside mine, but is out of town for the next month.) I do plan to talk to the neighbor couple when I see them. I haven't seen the guy since and avoid walking by his house, but it's a very small street.
Thoughts?
posted by morninganyway to Human Relations (55 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Response by poster: My sister just emailed me this (before anyone suggests it, we've both read The Gift of Fear):
1. Violent sex offender
2. Minimized the sex offense using incoherent drunk logic
3. May not have abided by community notification laws by notifying you soon enough after you moved in (look into this)
4. Always drunk and high
5. Admittedly hostile and antagonistic with other neighbors
6. Trying to probe you for information on whether or not you live alone (by mentioning your roommate)
7. Compulsive behavior
8. Always has a weapon on his person and made sure you knew it
9. No social skills or sense of boundaries
posted by morninganyway at 7:29 PM on May 21, 2015 [14 favorites]


Letting the local police know that he was.... odd, and a nuisance, and had recent bad days might be a good idea.

And yes, an alarm is never a bad idea.
posted by Jacen at 7:33 PM on May 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm a woman who lives alone with a small dog in a sketchy neighborhood with sketchy neighbors. Admittedly I have a high tolerance for personal risk and don't rattle easily.

You say that you did not personally feel threatened. I get that. He's clearly a grade-A weirdo but your gut is saying "be wary" rather than "be afraid." If I were in your shoes I'd be giving this dude some serious side eye but otherwise ignore him. Talk to your neighbors and gauge how they feel about him, talk to your landlord and ask about this guy's history. If he tries to talk to you again, give him a small nod of acknowledgement and then move on inside. Don't engage him, don't seek him out, don't approach him. If he tries to approach you, skedaddle.

Keep your guard up around the dude but don't let this loser dictate your happiness in your own home.
posted by phunniemee at 7:39 PM on May 21, 2015 [23 favorites]


I'd try to get more information before completely freaking out. According to a 2002 study, the recidivism rate is only 5.3% for sex offenders (that is, only 5.3% commit another sex crime, which I think is your main concern here). You don't say where you live so I have no idea what the laws are there in terms of information about his specific crime being available to you (for example, if he's specifically convicted of a sex crime against a family member [likely, statistically speaking] or a child then you would have less cause for personal concern), but a little more vigilance isn't the worst idea (e.g., incorporate the fact that you have this person as a neighbor when making otherwise normal choices, like when to get a friend to walk you home or whatever).
posted by axiom at 7:40 PM on May 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: Thanks all. Just to clarify, I live in central/east Los Angeles. I work from home/coffee shops.
posted by morninganyway at 7:42 PM on May 21, 2015


phunniemee:
You say that you did not personally feel threatened. I get that. He's clearly a grade-A weirdo but your gut is saying "be wary" rather than "be afraid." If I were in your shoes I'd be giving this dude some serious side eye but otherwise ignore him.
Downside of ignoring him if he's more dangerous than phunniemee guesses: HORRIBLE THINGS HAPPEN TO YOU.
Downside of NOT ignoring him: um, I dunno, I guess some police officer might think less of you or something. Basically no real downside.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:44 PM on May 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm most bothered by his not respecting your boundaries (following you into the street) and you indicating to him that you would rather be polite than enforce your own boundaries (by lingering and indulging him in a half hour rambling drunk conversation) rather than saying "well, I've got to be going now" and then turning your back on him. Yes, install some safety measures. Get a good peep hole in your door if you don't already have one. Get some signs that say your property is under surveillance and display them prominently. Get some actual surveillance equipment if you are so inclined (sometimes the signs are deterrent enough but with regard to your comfort level ymmv). He might end up being harmless to you, but it won't hurt to display some firmer boundaries. Don't engage him in further conversation. If he motions to you to come over again, wave him off.
posted by vignettist at 7:44 PM on May 21, 2015 [19 favorites]


(By which I mean: contact the police. Period. Now.)
posted by IAmBroom at 7:44 PM on May 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


In my area, most people would call and run it by local law enforcement - he'd be over the line for expectations in our small town area. And it'd be local common knowledge, with everyone keeping an eye on things.

In the metro, this would get a shrug and no further thought, and the neighbors would be no help whatsoever if anything did ever happen.

So advice really depends on what YOUR location is like...
- should you notify law enforcement? Probably, just so it's on record if something happens, but don't necessarily expect much.
- should you take steps to ensure your safety? Never a bad idea.
- should you talk to your landlord? Yes, and get a reading on their reaction. Might have a better interaction if you approach it from the "I had a surprising encounter" direction rather than "That creep did this and this"... but again, really depends on the landlord.
- should you stress over it? No, but be aware of your surroundings, keep yourself safe, and if it escalates, choose something to do.
posted by stormyteal at 7:46 PM on May 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, even leaving out the sex offender thing completely, this dude waves around a knife, gets into fights with neighbors, and is constantly drunk or high to an extent that it makes him do totally irrational "overkill" type things (IE with the plants.) He also is trying to get you to be nice to him and on his side and pressuring you to let him mow your lawn. He also didn't let you leave the conversation.

Forget the sex offender thing- all of the above is plenty bad enough!

I would do everything short of moving to secure your house and avoid him.
posted by quincunx at 7:47 PM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Usually people like this have a parole officer, unless the crime is in fact very old. You can track down the parole officer to both give some info on the behavior, and also ask questions about the man's usual demeanor and history.
If he's stepped over the line the parole officer will probably be all over it very quickly.
If you do find a contact at parole, you can share it with other neighbors.
Keep in mind he may go to jail again as a result of your conversation due to drug use/weapons.
Also call your neighborhood organization or council member, they might have more info or be a good place to share your info.
posted by littlewater at 7:51 PM on May 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


I would move. I am certain it is a horrible hassle. But otherwise you'll always be just a little bit on edge. Do you want to live like that? That doesn't sound like a comfortable or pleasant or easy way to live. Geez, what a tough spot. But the guy was waving a knife around and invading your personal space. Nice people don't do that, they know better and want to be better. Some people don't know better. What else don't they know? Ugh. Do you want your girlfriend to have an interaction with this person?

I apologize if I am overreacting. Maybe I am sheltered, and afraid of more things than it is necessary to be. I am just offering my honest opinion.
posted by Glinn at 7:57 PM on May 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


This is probably the best possible opportunity to proactively go meet your neighbors. They will give you a better sense of whether you should stay put and be wary or move for your own safety. Bring some cookies or something, and say, "I had a weird run-in with the guy across the street... should I be worried? Would you want your daughter/sister living in my house?"
posted by juniperesque at 8:00 PM on May 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


I personally would lean towards just letting this go, here's my reasoning:

If you put yourself in this guy's shoes, he f'ed up "years" ago, but he's obviously paid his debt to society and is allowed to live out in public now. This means that he's been evaluated by people with more experience than you or I have both with him, and with the level of danger of sex offenders. It seems like he's just trying to live his life, and generally hasn't caused problems. I'll admit that I personally have a problem with sex offender registries (because of the low recidivism rate, it seems like they just act to prevent offenders from being able to reintegrate with society without really providing much benefit safety-wise).

Now, for the first time (to your knowledge) in the months that you've lived there, he had a dispute with other neighbours. We don't know what the dispute is about (maybe the neighbours were being assholes to him, who knows). Anyways, that dispute ends with his past getting dug up and broadcasted around the neighbourhood. If this were me, I'd start to feel kind of uncomfortable about what other neighbours thought of me and I'd maybe consider trying to get out in front of it (I'd like to believe that I'd rethink it and not go interrogating everyone, but I'd definitely think about it).

He's never caused problems for you before, and now, in your first interaction, he wasn't threatening towards you. Yes, he does seem like a drunk and an addict, but neither of those things seem to be affecting his behaviour besides minor dumbassness (locking self out, breaking bottle), and social stupidity (not realizing that he was making you uncomfortable, talking to you when he wasn't in a good state of mind, oversharing, etc).

I'd consider being more vigilant as a general self-preservation thing, and talking to the other neighbours to get their side of the story is probably wise (even though you'll probably just get gossip). Maybe, maybe I would call the police non-emergency number and see if you could find someone to chat to about this guy. But I certainly wouldn't consider moving unless he becomes more threatening.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:09 PM on May 21, 2015 [9 favorites]


Response by poster: (Wanted to add: just found out the California Megan's Law site gives him a score of 4, which is a predicted recidivism rate of 8.7, or "moderate-high")
posted by morninganyway at 8:13 PM on May 21, 2015


I'd get to know the desk sgt at your local LAPD office. They probably know the guy--drop in, ask questions, and see what's what. Get to know your neighbors. Don't talk to him. Don't be aloof--you can acknowledge him without having to be on the same side of the street. You might want to talk to your landlord about your windows/door locks/bars/security. Don't advertise that you work at home, and I wouldn't have a predictable pattern of coming and going. If you're working in places near your house, go farther afield.
His sex offender status could mean he was 20 with a 15 year old. It could be more serious. I think his weirdness is warning enough without having to get into a discussion about recidivism rates.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:17 PM on May 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Moving seems like a huge overreaction, yes. I think the idea of seeing if you can find his parole officer is a great first step. This guy seems like more of a threat to himself than to you.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:18 PM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Short-term, I would get in touch with the LAPD senior lead officer for your area and tell him your concerns. The senior lead officer in my neighborhood is good about giving out his number so people can contact him easily; yours may vary. I'd also get to know the neighbors and see what sort of interactions they have had with this guy.

Long-term, I'd start prepping to move.
posted by mogget at 8:23 PM on May 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


So like… what would you do? Relax? Be more vigilant, maybe buy an alarm and pepper spray? Break my lease?

I think most of the answers urging you to "do something" are unnecessarily alarmist. People like this guy are opportunists and idiots. If you ignore him, and don't allow yourself to be summoned over to listen to his rants, he will leave you alone. He's an ineffectual drunk, who is almost certainly not going to do anything to you if you just ignore him.

And if he gives you shit for ignoring him, just say "hey no offense, but you made me uncomfortable last time we talked. I had never met you before and you spent a lot of time talking about the dispute you are in with your neighbors. Gotta go!"

If he DOES decide to pester you anymore, after you've been blunt with him, then call the cops. But nothing he's done to this point really raised any red flags for me.
posted by jayder at 8:30 PM on May 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


Yeah, seconding what mogget said about finding your "senior lead officer" in the LAPD. They're usually pretty good about helping out with this sort of thing -- the weird, iffy, in-between type stuff where you just don't know whether to call the police or not. You can call the non-emergency number for your local precinct to find out who your lead officer is.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:32 PM on May 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm unclear as to what the OP should be saying if they contact the police. Her neighbor just talked to her, there were no threats or crimes committed. Obviously the guy is already a sex offender so it's not like the police need to be notified about that. I'm from a small town where a stolen planter from the library was newspaper-level news, but I was under the impression that a department like the LAPD would be beyond dismissive and possibly angry or rude if they got contacted about something like "My sex offender neighbor is weird." I'm totally on board with avoiding this guy at all costs for a plethora of reasons, and reporting him if he does anything whatsoever that's reportable, it just doesn't seem to me like he's done anything one could report as yet?
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:49 PM on May 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


And by the way, I definitely wouldn't move over this. My experience based on recently moving and fooling around searching the sex offender registry for different locations was that there are sex offenders within a mile or two of pretty much everywhere and... quite honestly I wish I had never looked at that website because I'm not sure what the point is, it was just scary and there's nothing I can do about it.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:52 PM on May 21, 2015 [18 favorites]


This guy has just gotten your permission to be around you with a knife. His gardening habit, is an excuse to be out in the neighborhoos with a knife, in case he comes upon someone irresistible. Tell him he may NOT TRESSPASS on your property, as you will call the police. If he approaches you again ever with a weapon in his hands you will press charges. Say police at least every third word, the next time he comes near you.
posted by Oyéah at 9:40 PM on May 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


I will concede I may be more alarmist than necessary, but I am surprised people are overlooking the waving a knife around part. Aside from the sex offender registry entirely. He may be harmless, but he has crossed several polite social boundaries. And his recounting of recent events suggest he has an anger problem.
posted by Glinn at 9:47 PM on May 21, 2015 [12 favorites]


I'd move, to be honest, if it was making me anxious. I don't want to have to be constantly vigilant and nervous about him assaulting a kid or teen in his house and the ensuing guilt if he does end up doing something creepy. Also your description of him---crazy scary, creepy.

I'm all for being compassionate, but you don't have to feel ashamed for being skeeved out by a registered sex offender, whether he was a 20 yr old having sex with a 15 yr old or 18 yr old with a 14 yr old or whatever.
posted by discopolo at 9:51 PM on May 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


After about six months of living in (probably) your part of LA, I decided to look at a map of registered sex offenders in the area. Hoo boy. LA is a big city, and especially in central/east LA there are a lot of weirdos. My girlfriend and I have lived around the central/east side for a while; the only threatening things that have ever happened to her have been from random angry homeless people wandering by, not the sex offender who lived on the corner. That's not to say you're totally safe, and every situation is different. But what you're describing isn't totally shocking for this part of the city.

THAT SAID, I'm not saying his behavior was OK. If you feel threatened, balance the risk of feeling foolish against your safety. Yeah, the LAPD might be rude to you if you get in touch with them, but I've called the front desk at my local LAPD station over minor stuff and they were really nice. The LAPD website has a feature where you can look up the number for your precinct station. You can always just ask for advice, and they'll certainly know the neighborhood and the people in it far better than I do.
posted by teponaztli at 10:26 PM on May 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


This guy sounds like his addiction is ramping up and he is, therefore, extremely unpredictable.

Do not fuck with the criminal element in LA. You are getting some mighty bad advice here. Do not go over to your neighbors homes or talk to them openly in the street.

I think you should move. Or stay at your GF's until your landlord gets home. Just lie low and stay away for a while.

It sounds like your neighbor could end up back in jail at the rate he's going. I think you should wait it out from the safety of your GF's place. Or just move.

Now that he's involved you in his drama, he's likely going to be even more fixated on you. Stay away. Put inexpensive alarms on the doors and windows (like $20 for a set at Home Depot) and stay away for a while.

Also, drive a few blocks away to walk your dog. Stop walking your dog on your street. Just lay low for a while
posted by jbenben at 10:37 PM on May 21, 2015 [9 favorites]


Let me clarify that this guy sounds like he watches you. Also, he seems like he's itching for a fight or confrontation with someone. Don't be seen talking to your neighbors because that might really set him off.
posted by jbenben at 10:44 PM on May 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


Don't be seen talking to your neighbors because that might really set him off.

This seems pretty baseless.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:49 PM on May 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


I don't know about this guy specifically, but I will say that in my experience, criminals who are eager to re-integrate into society and who feel remorse about their crimes don't go waving knives around and getting inappropriately share-y and defensive about their crimes within minutes of meeting people. It's that behavior that worries me more than his specific sex offender status.
posted by KathrynT at 11:03 PM on May 21, 2015 [16 favorites]


while waving around a several-inch pocket knife he'd been gardening with. He brought up the sex offender thing within the first couple minutes – how he's not a rapist, the foreign object was his fingers, it happened a long time ago. Um, thanks?

I went home and immediately looked up my address on Family Watchdog, and yep: SEXUAL PENETRATION OF VICTIM WITH FOREIGN OBJECT BY FORCE OR FEAR. (No clue why I didn't look before I move in.) I can't find a date of offense, but the guy claimed it was years ago.

His reason for talking to me seemed to be a recent fight with a neighbor couple. Stemmed from a misunderstanding, ended with male neighbor yelling in the street about the guy's sex offender status and calling the police on him. He wondered if I'd heard about it. Also, the night before, apparently he locked himself out, got upset and broke a bottle in the street. Wondered if I knew about that, too.
...
Oh, and over and over again, he asked me to let him cut the weeds in my yard. I'd noticed him before, because he compulsively gardens – the succulents & agave in his front yard are missing most of their leaves (sawed off with his pocket knife, apparently). His house is an old, semi-broken-down family home where he lives with an invalid parent. It's surrounded by gates and tall hedges, and the yard is crammed with all sorts of weird hoardery stuff.

I think you should be very concerned, and I doubt it was just fingers because he shows signs of experiencing some kind of fetishistic identification between his penis and foreign objects -- inappropriate compulsive 'gardening' by sawing leaves off of succulents and an agave plant with a pocket knife he always carries with him, and trying to insist on doing virtually the same thing to plants in your yard.

For this guy, I'd guess that waving his special pocket knife around as he talks to you is roughly equivalent to what exposing himself to you would have been for a more ordinary sex offender.

I think you should speak to the neighbor who had the confrontation with him, get the police involved, and make preparations to move.
posted by jamjam at 11:05 PM on May 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


He's totally watching you, he is fixated on you, and he's chaotic and addicted. And the knife. Plus the history. And, he's now disclosed that history, to you, directly, a person he's very interested in. His wheels must be turning. I would be very worried, you should worry a lot.

Other than setting up an alarm system, and notifying his parole officer, there's nothing you can really do to prevent an escalation (and it's possible those actions might contribute to an escalation, he's a wild card). Police will only be useful after the fact of a thing happening. I would be worried enough to move.
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:03 AM on May 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Respectfully, there seems to be an awful lot of psychoanalysis-by-internet in this thread. The guy talked to you one time. You've seen him before - it's not like he has to be staring at you from the bushes to know you live nearby. I mean, he could be every bit as creepy as he's made out to be, but we don't know. What makes this a tricky situation is that nobody on this site really knows much about him or what he's inclined to do, unless an expert in sexual assault and recidivism shows up.

I feel like the only advice I can give you, as someone who lives where you do, is to go with what makes you comfortable once you have as much information as you can get. If you can speak with someone who actually knows him (like his parole officer or someone in the LAPD who knows him), then you can have more information to go on. Maybe your neighbors were just being jerks, or maybe he's been threatening to them. Do you trust your landlord? Is there anyone you can reach while he's away?

If you can't get any more information on him and you're left guessing what he'll do, then maybe that, in of itself, is enough of a risk to make you want to leave. He's done a great job establishing himself as a creepy, unstable person who lives near you. You said you feel vulnerable. You have a right to feel safe in your home, and if that's not going to be possible, then you're not unreasonable if you want to live somewhere else.

If you're asking about how you should be reacting to this, versus how you are reacting, then that's something else entirely. I'm not sure that I can answer that, and maybe other people are right to be freaked out. If you're asking around because you think you should be more worried than you are, then that's one thing. If you're really worried, but just don't want to deal with moving, that's something else.
posted by teponaztli at 12:25 AM on May 22, 2015 [11 favorites]


Also, with a note on comfort: it doesn't have to be a choice between staying and leaving. Would you feel safer knowing you had a security system and pepper spray?
posted by teponaztli at 12:38 AM on May 22, 2015


I think you should be very concerned, and I doubt it was just fingers because he shows signs of experiencing some kind of fetishistic identification between his penis and foreign objects -- inappropriate compulsive 'gardening' by sawing leaves off of succulents and an agave plant with a pocket knife he always carries with him, and trying to insist on doing virtually the same thing to plants in your yard.

For this guy, I'd guess that waving his special pocket knife around as he talks to you is roughly equivalent to what exposing himself to you would have been for a more ordinary sex offender.


Oh, come off it. There is absolutely nothing to support this rather fanciful idea of yours.

This is a sad fucked-up drunk who may be worth keeping an eye on or making a few calls about. Not a crazed cackling knife-rapist just waiting to strike.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:41 AM on May 22, 2015 [19 favorites]


I am very sorry. It was irresponsible of me to have reacted so strongly, when you are already afraid.

I still think it'd be a good idea to take some precautions in the very short term, at least. Like jbenben's suggestion of staying with a friend for a while, and others' suggestions of talking to your landlord and whatever a community support officer would be in LA. Because he does seem to be worked up at the moment - maybe it is just because of this conflict with the neighbours, and whatever is going on with him being "high and drunk a lot", but he does seem to be interested in you and invested in your opinion of him and things he does. Maybe after a cooling off period, with an alarm system in place, and a better idea of how he is day to day, you'll decide he's more or less worrying, and you can think through how you feel about him (and that predicted recidivism score) more clearly.
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:01 AM on May 22, 2015


I, personally, would be eager to see what happens if I extricate myself more forcefully from the conversation. Will he stop following me around or will he get aggressive?
My money is on the last one, though. On balance: Police. Mention all the points your sister made and emphasize that he did his best not to let you leave, while waving a knife.
Doesn't matter if he didn't mean to threaten you with it. You don't want a chaotic person to suddenly change their mind about knives.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:48 AM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not to further freak anyone out, but why is his risk "moderate-high" if the offense happened years ago? Is there a way of getting specific information about that? I'd wonder about that... According to this, his risk ought to decline over time if he's not re-offending (with sexual or other types of crimes, which I guess could be related to drugs [or anything]. Or it could be that the victim was really young).
posted by cotton dress sock at 2:00 AM on May 22, 2015


Honestly, I'd probably be less concerned about the fact that he's on the registry, and more concerned about the fact that he's got a knife, a substance abuse problem, a temper, and apparently no concept of social norms. I wouldn't move, but I would talk to someone at my local police station about how they need to do a wellness check on my neighbour who is behaving strangely. I would not tell any of my other neighbours that I had contacted the police. You don't want it getting back to him that it was you who called them. For all he knows, the neighbours he fought with were the ones who called.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 3:11 AM on May 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


I'd move. Not "grab your go bag and never look back" move, but put the wheels in motion to start looking for another place (research your lease provisions, save a deposit, etc.). It's not about the registered sex offender status. I live in NYC, it's basically impossible to not live near someone on the registry; aside from that, I'm politically(?) opposed to the concept of the registry, so I try not to focus on registry status. And it's not chasing some illusion of a "safe" neighborhood; I get it, women are never safe, anyone could be dangerous, etc etc.

For me, the interaction itself would be worrying enough for me to want to move. I would be on edge walking about the neighborhood, worried that the guy might try to approach me again even just for conversation. Fine, the guy might be harmless. That doesn't mean you have some moral obligation to be his friend. I, personally, have no desire to have knife-wielding erratic drunk/high randos in my life, even for a neighborly hello. I'd be worried that if I ignored him or failed to engage him sufficiently, he'd escalate. And it doesn't matter if he actually would or wouldn't do anything. I want to feel safe in my home/neighborhood and, rational or not, justified or not, this would make me feel on edge. The rent is too damn high for that shit (and I've moved for less before).

Whether he's actually dangerous (which none of us can know) is really beside the point. What is your current level of discomfort living in your neighborhood? Do you think it will stay at that level, increase, or decrease? Are you ok with living with that level of discomfort for the rest of your lease? Is there some measure, short of moving, that would make that discomfort dissipate (alarms, weapons, police notification, etc)? There really is no right or wrong answer here - listen to your gut; don't worry if you're overreacting or underreacting - you're reacting how you're reacting and it doesn't really matter what other people would do, you're the one who has to live there. And whatever you decide right now doesn't have to be your decision forever - if you want to wait and see if anything else happens (e.g., he approaches you again), and gauge your feelings then, that's fine too.
posted by melissasaurus at 4:39 AM on May 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


Oh, and over and over again, he asked me to let him cut the weeds in my yard. You said No, right?

This is a person convicted of a violent offense, seems to still be prone to violent behavior, addicted to drugs/alcohol, possibly mentally ill, poor boundaries. I would make sure he knows you do not want him in your yard. I'd say Good Morning, and assiduously avoid any further contact at all.

You live in a big city, and presumably, at your budget point, the housing will be older and there will be a weirdo or five in any neighborhood. His behavior is skeevy, but he's avoidable. Worry more about a crack house or dealer who brings other lawbreakers into the neighborhood or teenagers who are super loud, or the burglar who's quiet about their activity. Maintain good security in your home and car, because you're in a big city.
posted by theora55 at 5:24 AM on May 22, 2015


You have identified yourself as a possible victim already by allowing him to force you to stay where you didn't want to stay and listen to him. He ignored social cues on purpose. The knife was an added test. You are in danger. Call the police and ask for extra patrols on your street and for tips on how to secure your home and person. Never, ever, for any reason, even if he is bleeding on your doorstep, allow him to speak to you again. Ever. Glare at him. Throw rocks if you must. His disease is like a stray dog that you accidently fed. Don't feed him ever again.
posted by myselfasme at 5:53 AM on May 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


I lived next to someone with a similar background and a poor idea of boundaries for four years. This guy was a sex offender who definitely kept tabs on my roommate and I coming and going, and we had to tell him many, many times not to come over to our house or bother anyone at my house, which he would often do if I had someone mowing the lawn and I wasn't there, for example. He never threatened me, and although we did call the police once to ask them to make him stop stalking us at home, the police did nothing.

BOY WAS I HAPPY WHEN I FINALLY MOVED. The guy probably wasn't a threat at all, but living next to him made me think about it all the time. We'd never open the curtains on that side of the house, we'd be hyper-aware of his movements, we never felt comfortable being outdoors. He may never hurt you -- he probably won't. But for your happiness going forward, I'd recommend getting out of there when you can. It's just this stress that no one needs to have in their life.
posted by possibilityleft at 6:34 AM on May 22, 2015 [10 favorites]


I feel like this guy is probably not eager to return to prison, and is aware of the boundaries of behavior that will let him avoid that fate. Drunk and high all the time = probably depressed, feeling desperate, eager for distraction, low inhibitions. I'd be cautious, for sure. But if this is your first interaction with him in three months? It doesn't seem that dire.

How is your neighborhood otherwise? Could you get to know your other neighbors and get friendly enough to form an ad hoc neighborhood watch, or at least have everyone be aware of what's going on? If it's at all feasible, I'd buddy up with a neighbor and get more perspective on what it's like living long-term with this guy nearby. If he's regularly having episodes, then yeah, maybe start planning to move. If he seems to be all talk and just a sad dude having a rough time in life due to horrible decisions and poor impulse control? Maintain your boundaries and let him be.
posted by witchen at 7:35 AM on May 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Call the local police department, make a note of when you called and who you talked to. Contact details appear to be 1-877-ASK-LAPD (877-275-5273) and contact.lapdonline@gmail.com.

They may help you talk about your home security, and you can at least record what happened - a knife, appeared drunk or on drugs, talked about sex offences, trouble with neighbours, wanted to enter your property - and they may have other help and advice.

Keep a note of dates and times of further events and interactions. Talk to your neighbours. Make sure all your doors and low-level windows lock properly.

Personally, I'd move...!
posted by alasdair at 8:10 AM on May 22, 2015


A lot of people seem to be focusing on "he brought up his past offenses" and skipping over the bit where "recently my other neighbor started yelling in the street about this guys offenses", which seems like an unbalanced view.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 9:00 AM on May 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


It occurs to me that there may be other documented instances of bad behavior on his part. Call and talk to the ops about him. If they do any neighborhood policing, they may be able to tell you more about his level of danger to you.
posted by theora55 at 12:46 PM on May 22, 2015


I feel like this guy is probably not eager to return to prison, and is aware of the boundaries of behavior that will let him avoid that fate.

This guy previously made bad decisions, and is currently abusing intoxicants and pushing his neighbors' boundaries. Oh, and he has a knife. He's still making bad decisions.

I would start carrying a key ring personal alarm and make plans to move.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:47 PM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, keep in mind, none of us have met him. Not those of us who are scared for you or those of us who think he's harmless. It scares me that you were nice to him and weird guys generally latch on to women who they know won't be rude to them and then let their weirdness/creepiness fly free.

But: You should always listen to your gut. You don't have to talk yourself out of it. You interacted with him. Don't stop listening to your gut.
posted by discopolo at 3:22 PM on May 22, 2015


You read The Gift of Fear - I think it's pretty obvious what Gavin deBecker would say. When a wolf feels its hackles rise, it doesn't sit around and ponder, "Am I overreacting?" It doesn't post an ask metafilter question to take a poll on whether it's being reasonable. It reacts.

This concept is so important that he named the whole book after it. Yeah, based on your paragraph of text we can all imagine situations where he is harmless but the strongest piece of information you have is your gut reaction.

I would react as if you had a dangerous animal living on my street. Because according to your gut, you do.
posted by selfmedicating at 3:35 PM on May 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


For the record, I'm not focusing on his past offenses.

I'm focusing on the fact that he is an active alcohol/drug addiction and carries a knife he has no problem waving around. I think that's enough to give him a wide berth.

I'm also pretty concerned at some of the cavalier attitudes here since folks are (maybe understandably) ignorant of construction here in LA. Homes usually have a single story and older homes have notoriously flimsily constructed windows and doors - especially guest houses. Before central air and air conditioning, homes were built for ventilation, not insulation against the elements and home security.

My cat once opened my neighbor's closed casement window to get inside. I've by-passed the Florida-style slat windows oodles of times when accidentally locked out. I've just described 60% to 90% of the residential window types in LA, depending on neighborhood.

This risk is 100% worth counter-measures of some sort.

I'm sure this fellow has noticed the owner in the main house on the property is out of town by now. LA is like that. Unfortunately.
posted by jbenben at 11:50 PM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, it's not a great situation. This in particular is not great (because, why?):

Stemmed from a misunderstanding, ended with male neighbor yelling in the street about the guy's sex offender status and calling the police on him.

But, yeah, the whole thing is not great as you've now had a conversation with him. Mix up your routine if you can - keep an eye on his schedule if possible and try to avoid him.

You don't need to go into a lot of detail with the landlord, just say that you're not overly comfortable with him - it might prompt the landlord to tell you whatever they know about him or at the very least it means someone else who lives there (some times) knows something.

I don't think you need to escalate this at this point (if he showed up at your door, you might want to re-evaluate that), but you need to be vigilant and you need other people to know what's going on (landlord, GF, family, neighbours if you're comfortable with that).
posted by heyjude at 1:32 AM on May 23, 2015


You've thus far been teaching him that he can monopolize your time. You are a competent adult, and were free to leave at any time yet stood there for half an hour talking to someone who made you uncomfortable. That has to stop. Practice your assertiveness. Give him zero time from now on. If he tries to engage, just don't. And you don't need to say why, he is not entitled to an explanation and that would just give him something to argue against. Just shake your head while continuing walking to your destination. If you must, toss in a "gotta go" or "busy". You don't want to be a satisfying person for him to talk to, and either being too nice (as you have been) or too " mean" by mentioning the cops etc. as some have advised, may encourage him to continue engaging with you.
posted by mysterious_stranger at 8:07 PM on May 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Consider taking a women's self defense workshop at your local rec center or community center. Not only training like shouting "go away", running away, and hitting an assailant, but also how to deal when a harasser keeps scouting out your boundaries.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:46 PM on May 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Even without the sex offender status, a drunk, possibly drug-addicted man totally invaded your space with a knife in his hand and he knows where you live. I have been terrified at a lot less! I mean a creep on the bus at least doesn't know where you sleep!

At the very least, if moving is not an option: get really good locks on all your doors and windows, a reliable alarm system, a good peep hole, a pepper spray and use them all consistently.

Make a sign on your side of the door because when people knock or ring the bell years of indoctrination to be "nice" will make you run to open the door. The sign should have clear rules like: do not open unless you can clearly see who it is, do not open if nobody answers, etc. Have a light on your porch and leave it on all night. They also have those lights with movement sensors, although they sometimes get activated with cats.

Change your routine and like someone suggested above take your dog for a walk away from the neighborhood.

Do not engage him. Don't be a sympathetic ear and actually be curt to him. If he thinks you are nice he might see that as a weakness, not a kindness. If he insists, I give you my mom's advice:when a person comes at you acting insane, be MORE insane. At least in my case it has worked to lose my shit (not physically, just verbally while I strategically look for my way out, get my pepper spray or let the neighbors hear me) so that the creep freaks out and runs away. YMMV.

I would start looking at moving away, though. I come from a very dangerous and large city and one thing I know is that you must nip these things in the bud. It's just better for your own sanity. I have never heard a story where a woman was nice to an unstable and scary man in the street and they got along fine and things were peachy (granted, it might be that it's not such an interesting story to tell but it does happen). Listen to your gut.
posted by Tarumba at 8:30 PM on May 24, 2015


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