If you haven’t been there, you know someone who has: struggling with a nightmare neighbor who seems dead set on causing you problems, or living in a less-than-stellar neighborhood. I know the latter quite well, having spent most of my adult life living in lower income or transitional areas that occasionally had problems with crime of all sorts. Based on that experience, I’m going to go into this with one idea in mind: moving might not be an option.
You might own the house, or have other financial restrictions that keep you in place. You might have family nearby who need you. You might just want to fight the good fight. For whatever reason, you’re at where you’re at, and you have to deal with it. But how?
There are a few things to understand before we get started. Firstly, the problem isn’t likely to resolve itself—you’re going to need to do something. Secondly, the power of the authorities is limited; the cops are likely doing what they can about your neighborhood, and their authority over your neighbors is limited. Indeed, calling the cops on problem neighbors repeatedly can often exacerbate things. Thirdly and most importantly: understanding the circumstances is a key part of finding resolution.
We’ll use that final point as a jumping off place: what they’re doing is likely not about you. Everyone in this life faces their own battles, frustrations, and circumstances. Crime is aggravated—if not caused—by a whole host of things. The wrath of your problem neighbor or the issues in your neighborhood are ultimately not personal, just a personalized manifestation of some other things going on. That having been said, your problem neighbor thinks it’s personal, and you have to respond in kind.
The best approaches to both problem neighbors and problem neighborhoods hold a lot in common. Make sure your home security is up to speed, along with your family emergency plan. Build good relationships as best you can with your neighbors—and yes, you’ll need to do your best with the problem ones. Keep your dwelling low key; modest outdoor furniture and décor that blends into the neighborhood is a must. Keep your blinds drawn so people can’t see into your dwelling easily. Live quietly and inconspicuously; it’ll help keep you from becoming a target in the first place.
If you have a problem neighbor, don’t give them anything to complain about. Keep your outside areas clean and up to code. Keep the noise level down when the law requires.
For problem neighborhoods: get proactive. Organize (or join) a neighborhood watch. Set up or attend an existing community meeting—even the worst neighborhoods have people working for change. Get to know the area, both geographically and in terms of its crime problem. If you’re a newcomer, connect with and listen to the folks who have been around awhile. You might be surprised by the insights you gain.
Take a moment and review your personal security plan: how you would deal with an assault/mugging, home invasion, or other violent incident. If it occurs—and the likelihood is now a bit higher—you’ll be glad you did.
Finally document issues as they occur, particularly with a problem neighbor. If it comes down to a 911 call or a day in court, it’ll make your case stronger. Confrontation isn’t the goal—resolution is—but a confrontation may come. You’ll want to make sure you’re prepared and that you have the law on your side.
This isn’t a comprehensive list by a long shot—a lot depends on your individual circumstances. But it’s a good start toward keeping yourself safe and sane when dealing with aggravating circumstances.