Suspicious activity at the neighbor's house
June 13, 2006 2:56 PM   Subscribe

I suspect my neighbors are drug dealers. Do I have enough evidence to call the cops? Sorry if this has been asked before...

I swear this has been asked before, but I wasn't resourceful enough to find it if it was.

My neighbors, who my husband and I have dubbed them "the low pants crew" (because they all wear baggy pants precariously situated way below the hips), are a bunch of thugs.

It's a really creepy scenario, actually. They live in a small crappy rental house. An older woman about 55 lives there with what seems to be about 5 18-28 year old men (they aren't brothers because they're all different races) Anyway, these guys don't work, and just hang out on the patio ALL DAY trying to look menacing. While I was gardening for 5 hours one saturday, at least 10 different people parked, stopped by just briefly went inside the house, and left 5 minutes later. These guys don't have winning personalities to warant guests or anything.

Other neighbors have similar suspicions.

Part of me wants to think, "If they were in fact drug dealers why would they be SO obvious about it?" But then I know the answer, they really aren't so bright. Am I being to presumtious and judgemental?

What can I do? I'd like to clean up my block and increase my property value, but these dudes aren't helping.
posted by delladlux to Society & Culture (49 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
First, can you talk to the 55 year old about it? Maybe she can put a stop to it.

Also, Is there anything they specifically do that bothers you? If they play loud music or party late into the night then you can ask them to turn it down. If they don't do it, call the cops. That might scare them. And the cops might get lucky and find contraband.

You can call the cops anyway and let them know about your suspicions. Depending on the police dept, they'll increase their patrols. Cops where I live love to arrest thugs--or at least intimidate them.

Definitely get all of your neighbors to call the cops.
posted by Pacheco at 3:03 PM on June 13, 2006

Take a look at this thread, for starters. It's a different situation, but there's a lot of discussion of what to do if you suspect a neighbor of crime.
posted by brain_drain at 3:03 PM on June 13, 2006

Also, don't underestimate the ability of drugdealers to do what they do for all to see. The problem is when they get away with it, then the neighborhood suffers in general. Its really a matter of civic duty to tell law enforcement.
posted by Pacheco at 3:05 PM on June 13, 2006

Am I being to presumtious and judgemental?

You are most definitely being judgmental. Maybe not wrongfully so, but you are passing judgment on these guys.

An older woman about 55 lives there with what seems to be about 5 18-28 year old men (they aren't brothers because they're all different races).

Is it possible the older lady is ill, these are her caretakers, and people are stopping by to check on her health? Is it possible that, while they may not be biological brothers, they may be adoptive brothers? Haven't you ever seen that movie Four Brothers where this same conclusion of drug dealing could have been made?

I'm not saying that's what happening, but it's possible that even if these fellas are dealing the drugs, they will more than likely make up a similar story to counteract everything you have just said.

Is it enough to call the cops? ANYTHING is enough to call the cops, but the cops have to tell you if it's enough information to do anything about it, depending on their willingness to attempt to arrest, the current state of your local drug enforcement program [are they on a missing to "crack down" on this "type of thing?"], and the laws in your area.
posted by starbaby at 3:05 PM on June 13, 2006

Ugh, "missing" should be "mission."
posted by starbaby at 3:06 PM on June 13, 2006

Not sure where you are, but in this city-Seattle the laws are so lax the cops have no motivation to stop them, as they say, "they'll be out agian in 24 hours, with no further punishment." So they focus on more serious crimes, and people peddle openly on the street without fear. However, in different counties its a whole 'nother matter! In chelan, you can spend a month in jail just for a DUI.
posted by uni verse at 3:11 PM on June 13, 2006

Another thread - different situation, similar concerns.
posted by invisible ink at 3:21 PM on June 13, 2006

Starbaby - she's not ill at all. Just extremely passive. She clearly knows what's going on. In fact an older man came and yelled at her (loudly. outside. for the whole neigborhood to hear) about "How could she let those lazy sons of ***tches continue to live there, and why did she tear up his (the older man's) welfare check while he was in jail"

Forgot to mention that bit.
posted by delladlux at 3:29 PM on June 13, 2006

Ooo ooo. Forgot to also mention (I don't know how valid this is, but) 4-5 months ago, another neighbor claimed he was visited by the feds, and they told him they were keeping an eye out on the low pants crew. However, nothing has happened, so...
posted by delladlux at 3:32 PM on June 13, 2006

Rather than getting in touch with the cops, can you try to get intouch with the property owner? Let the owner deal with it and evict them if necessary.
posted by necessitas at 3:39 PM on June 13, 2006

What kind of neighborhood do you live in? Is it the sort of neighborhood where a drug dealer could expect to operate openly and with impunity? If so, I think you should seriously consider moving.

Alternately, you could "drop a dime," but then you have to ask yourself the question, "Is this really worth it?" There are a lot of possible negative consequences that could come from your actions.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:47 PM on June 13, 2006

Just want to clarify Something

"In chelan, you can spend a month in jail just for a DUI."

the word "just" here seems to refrence that you think this is over kill or to extreme an action.

I think its perfectly fair that if you decide to risk the lives of innocent bystanders, babies, children, moms, dads, by drinking and then deciding to get behind a 2 ton bullet that this is more then fair treatment - that or loose your license for the same amount if not longer (1st infaction) but really thats another thread topic all together.

as for the low pants crew - I think a call to the police should be the first step - Also your neighbor and her talk does not seem to have happened in a very mature manner. What about an annoymous letter left in her mail box.. with the "suspsions" outline and a polite request to make the block safer for everyone by discontinuing their little business.
posted by crewshell at 3:55 PM on June 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

Becareful about an anoyomous letter.

As you are their closest neighbor, it is likely that they'll suspect you of writing it and may try something back at you.

Call the cops and let them know what you've seen. At the very least it'll be put on record if anything in the future happens.
posted by k8t at 4:13 PM on June 13, 2006

Afroblanco - "drop a dime" ? I'm not up on my street slang, I guess.

as for the neighborhood, it certainly isn't Shangri la, but it isn't the hard mean streets either.
posted by delladlux at 4:31 PM on June 13, 2006

Any reason you can't ask the woman what's going on?

Is this a new situation, or has it be going on awhile?

It could be drug dealing, the old lady could be a bookie, they could be selling something else legitmately out of the house, or many other possibilities.
posted by desuetude at 4:33 PM on June 13, 2006

Do I have enough evidence to call the cops?

No. Baggy pants and a lack of "winning personality," are not crimes. People can have as many visitors stop by their house as they like.
posted by fire&wings at 4:43 PM on June 13, 2006

Don't worry about enough evidence; that's for the cops to worry about. Call them, let them know what's happening and let them worry about its (il)legality.

Many cities have neighborhood officers; find out if you have one and contact that officer. If so, don't so much report your neighbors as simply ask these questions of him or her and see what the reaction is.
posted by Doohickie at 4:49 PM on June 13, 2006

drop a dime

posted by phrontist at 5:01 PM on June 13, 2006

To "drop a dime" refers to the cost of a call from a pay phone a very long time ago. You drop a dime in the slot, tell the cops your piece, and hang up. They don't know who you are, so it's an anonymous tip. Equal to the present "snitch."

It's very possible that the police know about the activity in this house, whatever it is. They may be waiting to feel confident that they can get a member of this low pants crew to tattle on someone who is manufacturing the drugs, or selling them the drugs that they are resaling. This is because even though these guys may be slinging a pound of dope a day out of this house, there is someone above them providing that pound of dope, and where that pound of dope sits, there are many more pounds. Those are the houses narcs really want to ram the doors on.

The police may already be entering the house making "hand to hand" buys and recording all of the information via wire. Hell, they might have the house bugged.

Maybe the old woman is generous and feels that she is keeping these young boys out of deeper trouble by allowing them to live with her and receive company. Maybe these many people stop by, try to get the boys out of the house to go "do stuff" and they're all like, naw, grams here doesn't approve. (Hey, I'm an optimist, but even I don't fully believe this scenario is likely.)

While I'm being wildly suggestive, have you ever had a conversation with these young guys? We've had a recent question on here on the green where the OP admitted that he's been told he "looks mean" but feels unable to consciously change this. Maybe these low pants crew members don't know/care that they are sending negative signals? Chat them up, bring the older lady a pie or something and see if you can sit and have a conversation..
posted by bilabial at 5:01 PM on June 13, 2006

What you don't want to do is give your neighbors the impression you're a narc. (That's, uh, "a narcotics officer — or a civilian who might report you to one.") If they decide you're bad for business, you could very well find yourself getting threatened or worse.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:12 PM on June 13, 2006

(That's assuming that they are dealing. From what you said, if I had to guess, I'd say they were, but what do I know?)
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:13 PM on June 13, 2006

If these people are just roommates or relatives or otherwise living together, 10 visitors in five hours isn't that many for six people. And a winning personality is in the eye of the beholder. Calling the cops might give them a useful data point if they're already building a case or are receiving other complaints, but they're certainly not going to get a warrant based solely on what's been mentioned here.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 5:16 PM on June 13, 2006

between the 'five helpful young men looking after an old lady who have a lot of friends who like to stop by for five minutes at a time' scenario, and the 'drug dealers' scenario, I think I know which one I tend to believe.

call the cops anonymously. It's up to them to decide about evidence.
posted by unSane at 5:33 PM on June 13, 2006

I live around the corner from what I have heard is a crack and prostitution house. Fairly similar situation to the situation you described. Got some interesting tips from Mefi people here.

What does it matter if someone is dealing drugs or just, you know, getting lots of visits? As Doohickie says, just let the cops know and they'll figure it out.

I second the neighborhood policing suggestion. The North Oakland police website has some interesting comments on where drug dealing is allegedly occurring (scroll down) and you can even report drug dealing anonymously online -- a similar thing might exist where you live. (It's pretty funny for a police website: "Young MBs are dealing drugs while acting like they are repairing cars," "McDonalds - Tony dealing drugs from 1-4 pm - Tony called and said he is not dealing drugs.") I wouldn't assume calling the cops will help -- the house I live near is on their list of trouble spots.

I would definitely not talk to the lady. I'm sure she knows. Two forty-something females appear to run / own the house I'm referring to. Talking to her would really call attention to you personally.

After you call the cops, I'd learn to enjoy the whole thing. I have a window from which to discretely watch all the comings-and-goings and now consider it entertainment. A few weeks ago, I happened to catch yardwork day at the crackhouse, that was pretty funny -- a guy weaving around with a weedwacker.

Oh, and don't take up selling drugs on the same block -- they wouldn't like that. ;)
posted by salvia at 5:38 PM on June 13, 2006

Vice and narcotics divisions typically know almost everyone who is selling drugs. If these guys have been selling out of the house for a while, you can be sure they know about it. As stated above, the police may be trying to catch a bigger fish or waiting until they have reason to believe there is a trafficking amount in the house. If the feds are involved, then you can be sure that someone is going away for a very long time. However, the feds will notoriously take their time before making any arrests.

What can you do? Call the police department and ask to be connected to the vice and narcotics unit. Tell them that the people in the house are selling drugs. You don't have any information that will give the police probably cause, so you don't have to worry about your name appearing on any document that gets back to the drug salesmen. They won't run out and make an arrest because of your call, but they will pay closer attention to a house they were already looking at because the public is complaining. They also may not have been looking at it but now will start paying attention to it.

You can also call in a noise complaint or some sort of domestic disturbance/fight. This will get the police to come to the house. If they come for noise, then the police will probably just knock on their door and tell them to keep it quiet. If they smell or see drugs at the door, then they can go in and search. It would be much more effective to call the police and tell them that you heard a domestic disturbance. Shouting. A woman screaming. Now when the police come for that call, they are going into the house. On the pretext of looking for an assault victim in the house, they will likely search for drugs. There will be arrests.

Lastly, if you and your neighbors can pool the money together, you can hire a private police force to work the area. They have very limited jurisdiction and will not be able to enter the property of the drug dealers' house, but they will be able to be very visible all aournd it. You can guess the chilling effect that might have on the activities in the house. Of course, there would need to be such a private police company in the town/city that you live in.
posted by flarbuse at 6:22 PM on June 13, 2006

Here is one scenario, if you're up for it.

You should be able to find the landlord by looking up the owner of the house in the tax records. In many cases like this, the landlord may live in another state and may not be familiar with the activity at the property.

Contact him/her and offer to buy the house (at a substantial discount of course, since it's probably trashed inside) and make the offer contingent on the eviction of the tenants.

Hire a contractor to make repairs, and repaint inside and out.

Put the house up for sale and hope for better neighbors! You might even make some money in the process if your neighborhood is otherwise good.
posted by Ostara at 7:06 PM on June 13, 2006

First, can you talk to the 55 year old about it? Maybe she can put a stop to it.

That is, in a word, daft.

I'd drop the cops an anonymous tip, and then let them do what they can/will.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:05 PM on June 13, 2006

Maybe they're dealing drugs and maybe you're too uptight.

Maybe they aren't trying to 'look menacing' but are just guys who have different style choices than you sitting on their stoop. Maybe you're overstating the five minute visit thing..

in my experience it usually takes longer than 5 minutes to complete a deal of any kind...especially drugs...many dealers will sample the wares with their clients at that takes about 20-30 minutes.

and the 'they all look different races' boss has 3 kids. she's white. people swear her oldest looks hispanic, her middle looks hawaiian, and her youngest looks black. all three are half white and half black.

call the cops if you feel you have to protect your safe little bubble...or you can bring cookies to the old lady and try saying hi first and deciding what you think after you've looked beyond your own nose...

just a thought.
posted by nadawi at 8:20 PM on June 13, 2006

Maybe this sounds heartless...but I wouldn't recommend bringing her a pie or cookies. If she's going along with these menacing guys, she's probably going to look at you like, "Who the hell are you?" if you come by her place out of the blue—especially if you're significantly younger than she is. Even if she's friendly, she's going to be suspicious—why would you come by? Are you scouting out her place? If she is involved with drugs, she's going to wonder, "Are you a narc?"

And if you do decide to complain to the police after that, even anonymously, you'll be her first suspect. That's just inviting trouble, when all you wanted was to make your area a safe place to live in.

My suggestion: keep observing—from an inconspicuous vantage point. Don't interact with these people. This means that you don't go "hm" in greeting or nod when you walk by them—just doing that was almost enough to start a verbal battle with some stranger in my neighborhood the other day. If they're trying to look menacing, just think of the opportunities for menace verbal interaction might provide.

Live your life, and don't get involved with them. To them, you should be just some stranger who happens to live on their street, not the woman who nods at them, the woman who brought them cookies, or anything else. A lot of people assume you're naive or overly goodhearted if you're actively going around trying to be friends with everyone—and they may try to take advantage of that.

Then if, after continued observation, you still think the situation merits intervention, give the police a call.
posted by limeonaire at 8:42 PM on June 13, 2006

It just seems that the poster had already decided before spying on them for a day that they were trouble with no other evidence besides low pants and menacing looks. This seems like paper thin evidence to try to mess up their week with cops and such.

The concern over property value also stinks of ingrained racist statements my grandparents would make about their new hispanic neighboors. It appears from reading other comments that the poster is not in the south, so maybe i'm putting too many words in their mouth but it all sounds so familiar.

My suggestion is always, 'hey, why don't you try acting like a human to them and see if they respond in kind'.
posted by nadawi at 8:49 PM on June 13, 2006

I think the poster also implied that they were Mexican, which is highly suspicious.
posted by xmutex at 8:55 PM on June 13, 2006

Whoa, what the crap, concerns over property values are now ingrained racist statements?

Right, right.
posted by xmutex at 8:56 PM on June 13, 2006

No, when combined with all the other statements and in the end it seems like property value is the only thing that is pressing on their mind it gives a very "oh no! brown people are moving in! property values will certainly fall!!" sort of feel to the whole question.

I wonder if these were white kids who wore their pants at an acceptable level and who hung out on their stoop but listened to country music and had all those visitors...would we see the same question? Maybe so...but probably not.
posted by nadawi at 9:02 PM on June 13, 2006

it gives a very "oh no! brown people are moving in! property values will certainly fall!!" sort of feel to the whole question.

You, like, read the question? The poster said the races vary. But you take it as you'd like.
posted by xmutex at 9:06 PM on June 13, 2006

These dudes are mostly white. It isn't about race. Why does everything trigger the race flag - jeez, people are so sensitive. And it wasn't 1 day of observing, they've lived across the street from me for 9 months to a year exhibiting the same behavior.
posted by delladlux at 9:12 PM on June 13, 2006

in my experience it usually takes longer than 5 minutes to complete a deal of any kind...especially drugs...many dealers will sample the wares with their clients at that takes about 20-30 minutes.

in my experience, suburban pot dealers act like that ... when you're dealing with urban crack (or other drug) dealers, you show up, you get what they give you and you leave ... if you get burned, you don't buy from them again

to the questioner ... DO NOT CONTACT THE WOMAN ... or anyone else at this house ... drop a dime on them with the police

they are drug dealers ... she's described the scene well enough i can tell ... just like when i moved in to my apartment, i could tell that the tattoo parlor down the street was a drug front ... lots of white kids with low pants and backwards baseball hats hanging around with no appearent purpose ... i picked right up on it ... 6 months later the parlor was busted and closed

it does take awhile ... a few years ago i lived in an apartment and the people above me were dealing ... we knew because the people there would throw little tied up sandwich bags on to the lawn to those below ... a few feet from where my 2 year old daughter was playing ... after awhile, i began to notice that there was often a dark blue car parked on the street with a guy in sunglasses watching ... i don't think they could have possibly not seen that ... not to mention the marked police cars that would hang out from time to time ... they continued on with their business as if none of this mattered to them

they got busted, of course ... by the feds ... a week later, a secret service guy came by and talked to us, asking if we'd seen the occupants lately ... some kind of counterfeiting in addition to the drugs, i guess

oh, and there's nothing like working at a motel night shift and having a swat team come in with a warrant for one of your rooms ...

but i'm rambling ... just make one call and avoid them ... avoid watching them ... the police probably already know
posted by pyramid termite at 9:40 PM on June 13, 2006

I have kinda trashy neighbors who exhibit similiar behavior who are not drug dealers. Are you being too presumptuous and judgement? Maybe. Hard to tell based solely on the info provided. Call the cops and tell them that the situtation looks odd, if you like. But be prepared for the possibility that your inquiry with the police may not change the situation, either because a) your neighbors are not actually criminals, merely people who look shady to you, or b) because they're being watched for small-time dealing in order to bust higher up the supply chain.

Perhaps it was unintentional, but the whole "menacing looks hanging out for no good reason" characterization is how many people would "politely" indicate that people don't "belong" in the neighborhood because of their "attitude." Ahem-read-between-the-lines. That's why some responders assumed a racial implication.
posted by desuetude at 9:53 PM on June 13, 2006

I've lived in tough neighborhoods my whole life. You don't have to have proof of anything to call the cops. You don't even have to be really confident that there's a crime going on.

Just call and tell them what you've observed, and that it gives you a bad vibe. They'll help you know what to think of it,ll note it and check it out. You certainly don't know that they're drug dealers, but you do know they're up to some suspiciousness... and if you tell the cops, it'll probably at least get a little more patrol action on your block.
posted by YoungAmerican at 11:42 PM on June 13, 2006

I would be interested to know where this neighborhood is situated because that can make a big difference in terms of law enforcement response. If this neighborhood is an impoverished neighborhood, it is expected that the cops' response will be tepid. In a more affluent or conservative area, the police might go to greater lengths to rid the neighborhood of undesirables.
posted by sswiller at 12:13 AM on June 14, 2006

Just regarding the 55 year old. I bought my dope from a 50 year old retired registered nurse for a long time. She was sweet as pie. She had a lot of young chaps hanging around her house too - her sons and friends of her sons. But she was the one selling.
posted by Jimbob at 4:04 AM on June 14, 2006

When I was a kid, our house was in a regular suburban neighborhood. The people who owned the house next to us moved out of the country and rented their house to a (seemingly) nice family of four from Colombia.

There were people coming and going at all times of the night. I would watch from my bedroom window, and their driveway would be full of cars, but every 10 minutes, the cars changed. It was crazy. My parents and the other neighbors used to call the police all the time. They'd come, but nothing happened.

Then, one day, their house was bombed (this was the era of Miami drug wars). Front door in the swimming pool, no windows - blew out all the widows at our house, too.

The next day, the cops investigated and found 2 cars in their garage with no engine, but bricks and bricks of coke under the hood. And stacks (and stacks) of cash in the trunk.

Point of the story, if it seems to be a dealers house, it probably is.
posted by necessitas at 6:55 AM on June 14, 2006

[a few comments removed, keep it on topic or take it to metatalk or email]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:38 AM on June 14, 2006

"It would be much more effective to call the police and tell them that you heard a domestic disturbance. Shouting. A woman screaming. Now when the police come for that call, they are going into the house. On the pretext of looking for an assault victim in the house, they will likely search for drugs. There will be arrests."

Calling in a false complaint is a crime in my jurisdiction. Just so you know.
posted by klangklangston at 7:42 AM on June 14, 2006

It just seems that the poster had already decided before spying on them for a day that they were trouble with no other evidence besides low pants and menacing looks. This seems like paper thin evidence to try to mess up their week with cops and such.

That's how it sounds to me. Did I miss it, or are these people actually doing anything that disturbs you? Are they damaging your property, making too much noise, threatening you, etc.? If not, I don't see why you should be reporting them to the police.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:13 AM on June 14, 2006

Someone didn't like my snark, and I guess it was inappropriate, but I want to iterate my agreement with the "this really sounds like something you shouldn't worry too much about, plus it's at least a little weird that you're so concerned" camp. The presence of drugs in your neighborhood isn't something that, even if true, you should automatically feel the need to do anything about, especially not based on the visual cues you've cited. And I would never endorse the police as a solution to this problem, because they are the gateway to misguided policies and a justice system that is only going to make the situation worse. Do your country, state, and neighborhood a favor and do nothing, or if you must do something, go over there and ask them to be more discreet. If you should go, do not be combative, do not feel yourself superior, and don't feel threatened. Just tell them your concerns (after sorting through them yourself beforehand). If you feel like you can't engage them calmly and respectfully, though, I would just avoid the situation entirely.
posted by Embryo at 4:42 PM on June 14, 2006

If the police won't help, you can ask about hiring an off duty officer to patrol the area during their peak hours (you and your neighbors can pool your money)

also, people with video cameras scare drug buyers, If the police won't help,contact your local news "action squad" about why the police won't shut down the "crack house". Even if they don't find anything to report on, the cameras and exposure might make them nervous enough to leave.
posted by Megafly at 6:27 PM on June 14, 2006

Filming drug dealers is also a decent way to get your ass beat down and/or shot.
posted by Justinian at 8:10 PM on June 14, 2006

also, people with video cameras scare drug buyers, If the police won't help,contact your local news "action squad" about why the police won't shut down the "crack house". Even if they don't find anything to report on, the cameras and exposure might make them nervous enough to leave.

What? I feel like at least half of this thread is crazy talk.
posted by ludwig_van at 4:21 AM on June 15, 2006

Now it's a crack house? What?! If the opinion of the neighbors escalated along the same lines as this thread, I'd be more inclined than ever to think that it's just a shabby rental with a couple of teenage dudes hanging around on the front porch with friends that come and go.
posted by desuetude at 6:16 AM on June 15, 2006

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