Creepy neighbors issue.
May 14, 2006 7:51 PM   Subscribe

What's up with my weird Latino next-door neighbors?

I live in the upstairs apartment of a duplex in New Orleans (nobody lives below us). There is an identical duplex next door to us. We share a fairly large back parking area and side dumpster. When we moved in in January, there were maybe 8 or 10 people total in next door, all Latino workers. I would see a few of them hanging around outside in the evenings, mostly talking on their cell phones. I have tried to be friendly (I'm from California and speak Spanish pretty well) and accepting of cultural differences, but things are getting out of hand.

By now there are (I'm not kidding) probably 20 people living in the building (each unit is 4br). There is always a gaggle of guys hanging around, watching me when I come or leave, or staring in my window on the weekends if I open my curtains. At first they were just in front or behind their own house, but they slowly started moving towards our building. I came home the other day to one guy sitting right on my front steps! They're really loud, and I'm not really comfortable with the number of people (I can't tell if a loiterer is a tenant or a potential burgler).

Then there was the water issue. I kept noticing that cars were being washed on our side of the lot - then I found out they were using our hose! We asked them a few times (I even left a note in Spanish) to stop, and it took our property manager talking to them multiple times for that to end.

They also have an affinity for our back steps - at first it was just one guy sitting on the bottom step. Then I went out the back door today and there was one guy sitting on the top landing!. I realize that in Central and South America people tend to hang out outside more and there is much more of a sense of community, but I really don't like some guy I don't know sitting right outside my back door! Aparently a couple of them were standing on the roof of our shed with binoculars peering into the girls' dormitory next door (we live right next to a university campus).

I realize that these guys are in a foreign country and that there is a culture clash. But how much of this is cultural differences and how much is plain rudeness/weirdness/creepyness? Any tips on what I should do?
posted by radioamy to Human Relations (31 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Go down to the police station and have a talk with the officers there. This behavior is totally out of line at this point. This is not cultural, they have marked you as someone who will not make a fuss over their increasingly disturbing behavior. I would not feel safe there, and I think you need to make this abundantly clear to the police. I might also contact the university police and let them know that they are peeping that the women's dorm.
posted by oflinkey at 7:59 PM on May 14, 2006

I'm sure they're violating some sort of law by having 20 people in one small duplex.

But on the other hand, if I was living with that many people I'd definetly want to spread out to get out of eachothers hair.
posted by delmoi at 8:02 PM on May 14, 2006

Is your property manager also theirs? If so, make it clear that this is unacceptable. If not, find out who their manager or landlord is, and let them know about the situation. They might not know. Or, they might change their mind if you indicate that you find the over-occupancy unacceptable.
posted by MrZero at 8:08 PM on May 14, 2006

Peeping into a girls dormitory is not a "cultural difference".
posted by fshgrl at 9:27 PM on May 14, 2006

Call the INS. Not to be a racist, but speaking as a resturant manager with lots of experience with hispanic workers, there's a high probability that some/all of them are in the country illegally. And that should be the exact kind of 'red flag' situation that should set off the immigration alarms.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:30 PM on May 14, 2006

Move.... seriously. Real estate in NO is about to be at its prime.

All my friends are buying places downtown only to resell them in 3 years to triple their profit.

Not really an answer to your question, but, you know....\
posted by bamassippi at 9:30 PM on May 14, 2006

Wait. I missed that it was in NO. Sorry. Dont call the INS. Theyll probably ignore it anyway.

Way to go reading skills.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:33 PM on May 14, 2006

...find out who their manager or landlord is, and let them know about the situation.

Their landlord/manager has no authority to control over what their tenants do on someone else's property. However, your landlord/manager had an obligation to keep the property clean, safe, etc.

20 people in one or two (its unclear from your post) 4BR units is probably a violation of fire laws, tenancy laws, health and safety laws, etc. That needs to be reported and inspected promptly before something very bad happens. If not a fire, then maybe a sewage backup...

Peeping into yours and others windows is seriously creepy. Even if some other culture considered that okay, I'm pretty sure it's illegal in the U.S. Ewwww.

Sitting on the top stoop. Eh, that one would be trivial except that it sounds like some may be trespassers. If so, I think it's reasonable to expect them at least stick to the stoop of what tenant they're visiting, instead of blocking yours.

Lay out your concerns, in writing to the landlord. If things don't get better in a hurry, contact a local tenants' rights org.

The hose is the only one that sounds like not a big deal. You all have the same landlord paying that bill, right? If you're paying for that water, then yeah -- not cool.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 9:39 PM on May 14, 2006

At the risk of sounding racist (which I'm not) - this is just how a lot of our new immigrant friends are. I watched my hometown of Concord, CA turn into an area full of them - and what you described is very common behavior that they think nothing of.

Seems very common here in San Jose, and I certainly saw a whole lot of it in Los Angeles too.

It's also very likely they don't care that they're in a foreign country. Chances are, there's not a whole lot that you can do about it. The police won't do much unless they're actually committing fairly serious crimes. If you're at all uncomfortable, your best option is probably to move.
posted by drstein at 9:41 PM on May 14, 2006

If you speak Spanish pretty well, as you say, can you find the guy who is actually renting the joint and ask him to keep his friends/relatives/coworkers over on his side of the property?

If that doesn't work, then yeah, cultural differences or not, these guys are out of bounds in the culture they are now in, so all the usual remedies apply:
Calling the cops, calling the landlord, calling the city inspector, etc.

Also, I'm not sure if it's the same in your area, but some University cops have jurisdiction outside of the campus itself.
You might have a better chance of a quick response if you call them next time you see someone with binoculars, rather than a city cop.
posted by madajb at 10:04 PM on May 14, 2006

Are you female living alone?

How about asking a male friend with Spanish skills to come home with you one night and tell them to get the hell off of your steps?
posted by k8t at 1:16 AM on May 15, 2006

So, you're living next to a bunch of immigrants, brought in to rebuild New Orleans, probably being paid below minimum wage, likely illegally in the country. As an extra added insult, your tax dollars are paying them, except you're probably paying $50/hour and $45 of that is going into the pockets of four layers of subcontracting companies. New Orleans is gold for parasitic government contracting companies.

They don't have anything to do when they're not on the job, no local movies in Spanish or places they would feel comfortable hanging out, so they hang out around the house. And your house.

Sounds like calling INS would be your best bet at resolving the situation quickly.
posted by jellicle at 6:53 AM on May 15, 2006

Just like you would be expected to respect their culture if you were in their country of origin, so they should respect the culture here. Hanging out on someone's steps, peering in their window, and loitering in large numbers by someone else's house is not acceptable.

I vote for calling the police and the INS, but I am afraid it might not get you very far.
posted by jayder at 7:12 AM on May 15, 2006

Sounds like calling INS would be your best bet at resolving the situation quickly.

What is it you think the USCIS (the INS doesn't exist anymore) is supposed to do? It's not their job to deal with annoying neighbors, and they don't generally deport Mexicans who haven't committed any crimes (and being in the country illegally is not a crime, it's a civil infraction on par, legally, with a traffic ticket).

Call the local PD.
posted by delmoi at 7:51 AM on May 15, 2006

Thank y'all for the suggestions!

FWIW, we do pay the water. The hose thing wouldn't be a big deal as an isolated incident, but it seems to be part of this ridiculous pattern.

We do share a landlord, although she basically doesn't give a sh*t about us because we're college students.

I think I am going to call University police.
posted by radioamy at 8:07 AM on May 15, 2006

In addition to calling the University police, you should seek out the University's landlord-tenant assistance for students. They should know exactly who to call for stuff like this, and having the leverage of the University behind things will help you greatly.
posted by MrZero at 8:54 AM on May 15, 2006

As a stop gap measure, you should be able to turn off the water to your outside faucet pretty easily.
posted by kimdog at 9:33 AM on May 15, 2006

Your university should have an ombudsman, seek their assistance.
posted by mrmojoflying at 9:52 AM on May 15, 2006

a couple of them were standing on the roof of our shed with binoculars peering into the girls' dormitory next door (we live right next to a university campus).

Cultural issues aside, this seems fairly troubling. Print up some flyers that say "Hey you probably want to make sure your blinds are down because some guys with binoculars are scoping you out from that shed over there" and hang the flyers in the dorm as a public service.
posted by mikepop at 10:19 AM on May 15, 2006

USCIS (the INS doesn't exist anymore)

True, but in this case the appropriate sub-division would be ICE (immigration and customs enforcement), not USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Service), bc you would want them removed from the country, not given immigration benefits. INS was broken into three sub-agencies - ICE, USCIS and CPB (Customs and Border Control). Not sure what calling ICE would do either, though.....
posted by Amizu at 10:28 AM on May 15, 2006

two words can make a world of difference: "la migra".

Sad but most likely true.
posted by mrbill at 10:38 AM on May 15, 2006

My neighborhood is increasingly Latino but the level of intrusion you describe is uncommon, actually.

Especially if you've already had conversations with them in Spanish, just tell them in a friendly manner that they need to keep it down and not crowd your house.

I read this as being an apartment, not a dorm. Did I miss something?
posted by desuetude at 11:02 AM on May 15, 2006

Next time you see them on your property, especially the shed, hose them down. Remember that crabby old foggy in the neighborhood you grew up in? Be the grump. "Get off my lawn" should be your new mantra. Let them know whose boss!

Or, tell your landlord you want a fence.
posted by kc0dxh at 11:18 AM on May 15, 2006

Not thought you should become their social director, but maybe they just aren't aware of everything that might be available to them that is cheap or free, especially in a university setting. Is there a group for Latino students on campus at the university? Maybe you could give them information on the Latino group's social activities.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 11:43 AM on May 15, 2006

Not THAT you should become their social director ....
posted by SuperSquirrel at 11:43 AM on May 15, 2006

Eh, screw cultural differences. I'm latino, and I know exactly this type of person. I'd pick up some choice Spanish words to let them know their behavior is totally inappropriate. Threaten them with the police, as recent immigrants never want trouble with officials. If you're a woman or a seemingly docile man, they won't respect you, so having a Hispanic policeman or someone of stature speak to them could also work.
posted by lychee at 1:49 PM on May 15, 2006

A phrase that should help, if encountering people egregiously trespassing on your property (like sitting on your porch or using your belongings without permission) is: "Ahora se va o llamare a policĂ­a." (You go now or I will call the police.)

Follow it up with actually calling the police. Document all of these goings on with photos if you can, it'll help with your landlord, your university ombudsman, the police and whomever else you enlist to deal with this.
posted by Dreama at 4:36 PM on May 15, 2006

get a gun.
get drunk.
wave it around.
posted by dawdle at 10:38 PM on May 15, 2006

Lychee, could you elaborate on "this type of person"? Any insight on why someone would think its okay to sit on my top step, repeatedly? Are they trying to intimidate me, or do they think this is really okay, or are they just stupid?
posted by radioamy at 11:17 AM on May 16, 2006

"This type of person" is usually un- or under-employed males in their 20s with no women around and no real relation to where they're living. In my gramma's neighborhood in Chicago, it's gradually turning more Chicano and there were more than a few problems like this (young males being dicks, basically, with the added machismo of Latin culture). What it took to clear them out was older Chicanos moving into the neighborhood and telling them to clear out. The family that moved in next to my gramma (from Nicaragua? El Salvador?) is fantastic and doesn't take any shit, and that decreased the loitering/drinking/harassing problem immediatly.
posted by klangklangston at 7:27 AM on June 6, 2006

Let's cut to the chase. You're in one of those shitty holes near Tulane? You're going to end up hating your landlord for a variety of reasons, so move if you can. If you just signed a lease, you may be able to get out of it if the conditions make the place unsafe. Talk to the Law Clinic. You'll probably ignore the above advice, since everyone has to make the shitty landlord mistake at least once.

Talking to your landlord isn't likely to do anything, because she's only interested in your money, and she'd just love for you to forfeit your deposit and move out, because she'll fill the place right back up.

Talking to the police won't do much, because unless they're doing something illegal, you won't even get a visit from them. Also this will probably escalate the situation with your neighbors.

Talking to the agency previously known as the INS(Ni!) won't do much, as mentioned above.

Your best bet is to get a male latino friend to tell them to kindly leave your shit alone. I doubt that will work, hence the suggestion to get the fuck out of there, but it's your best shot. I could recommend some inexpensive decent landlords who rent in the uptown area, if you like. I know one woman who practically specializes in housing grad students. Email in profile.

bamassippi - I don't think you're right about that.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 6:32 PM on June 7, 2006

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