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Posted on Thursday, September 20th, 2007 at 8:19pm CDT by 934caa8c
Product: The Jones
The Predicament - What would you do if you lived next door to the Worst Case Scenario?
~ He's a bully with a Napoleonic-complex, is chronically unemployed and has a problem with drugs and alcohol.
~ She's a doormat with low self-esteem, tolerates his verbal abuse, and doesn't have the strength or the courage to do anything about his numerous extra-marital affairs.
~ They have several children - all destine to complete the cycle.
~ Since they moved into their home the local police department have made REGULAR visits - sometimes 3 a day.
~ They threaten that they'll never move!
~ Their parents are "enablers" - they defend the behavior and occasionally foot the bill for everything from mortgage payments, to groceries and the kids toys.
~ They plead ignorance as their defense. According to their own twisted logic they claim to be the victim. Their litmus test as what defines them as "good people" is that they've never been arrested (as far as we know).
Read the CliffsNotes (abbreviated) version or the detailed blow-by-blow, but please take a few minutes to read this!
A Little History
This is a true story about my experiences with a neighbor on my street - "Mr. & Mrs. Jones." All of the events are real... actual... and factual!
Due to the events of 06/13/03 I began to keep a journal. Since then my spouse and I have compiled a notebook with nearly one hundred pages of dates, times and descriptions. So if, while reading this story you are wondering how it is I am able to recall events in such specific detail, it is because I typically carried a notebook with me so that I could write down exactly what happened and what was said. Generally before June 2003, I am only able to give approximate times and dates.
Early in the relationship I did try to work things out with the neighbors. I approached them in person, I tried to discuss things with them. When that didn't work I mailed them letters.
During the course of events it occurred to me that the natural progression of my paper trail might ultimately lead me to this, the virtual world.
Maybe I'm a fool for putting up with this situation as long as I have. Other concerned neighbors and myself have been unable to reason with Mr. & Mrs. Jones. My HOA, the police, nor the courts have been of any help. What would you do?
I would appreciate any constructive feedback that you can offer.
The CliffsNotes Version
Can I do this in 50 words or less? I doubt it, but in case you don't have the time to read the "blow-by-blow" I'll try my best.
I've lived in my home for several years. It is located in a middle class neighborhood of primarily younger families. I am an educated professional that chose this neighborhood and community for its quiet streets, good schools and traditional values. My wife is a full-time, stay-at-home mom. We are house proud! We have put a great deal of our own blood, sweat and tears into our home. I know that it's impossible to predict the future, but our plan is to stay here until our kids go through school. I'm financially conservative so I recognize the pitfalls of buying and selling homes too frequently.
During February 2000 Mr. & Mrs. Jones purhased a home on our street. In the years they have lived here they have proven themselves to be crass, loud, obnoxious, ignorant, jealous, gossips that continually fight, scream, yell and argue. The language that they use on a regular basis is as foul as you can get. Mrs. Jones is also a full-time stay-at-home mother. Mr. Jones, as best as I can tell, is an occasional blue collar employee.
I truly believe that everyone is entitled to their privacy and "to each his own." I can honestly say that I have never done an illegal drug in my life. Maybe I'm the exception, but I never found the desire. However, if a grown adult wants to sit in his garage and smoke pot until he eats himself out of house and home... more power to him as long as he doesn't violate my rights!
If they'd rather spend $1500.00 on vicodin versus their mortgage payment... if the in-laws foot the bill and don't care, why should I?
If Mr. & Mrs. Jones consider their idea of a vacation to be drinking a cold beer while sitting on the tail-gate of their pick-up truck, so be it. However, if Mr. & Mrs. Jones think that they are going to continually break the law, impose on and violate my rights, negatively impact the quality of my life and then literally sing and dance in the street in front of my house taunting me... it is only going to be a matter of time before I speak out.
Their family and our family are like oil and water. We are different people with different priorities. In spite of our differences, there should be no reason that The Jones Family and my family can't live next door to one another - especially if we keep to ourselves. As much as I try to avoid Mr. & Mrs. Jones they try equally as hard to make their presence known... in legal terms they continually infringe on the quiet enjoyment of a normal person with reasonable sensibilities.
Eventually Mr. Jones made threatening advances towards me and I filed a temporary restraining order.
They have nothing to lose and look for the easy buck so I continue to go out of my way not to entice him. They are opportunistic and dishonest. They have a history of making false claims against people and trying to sue them in court (like paying $945.00 for a dog and then making the claim of $5,000.00 in small claims court for the "emotional duress" they suffered becaused the dog was "sick" - this is only one example on file at the court house, there are more!).
Should I wait them out? If 50% of all marriages end in divorce it's only a matter of time before they split up and sell off their asset. They have two strikes against them... an unplanned pregnancy forced The Jones to wed - not the best reason for two people to make a life long committment. He has had numerous affaris with different women. Financially they are over extended. They have no respect for one another. Yeah... that's more than two strikes, isn't it?
Even if they move there are no guarantees that another family equally as bad won't move in... but I think the odds would be in my favor this time.
Several years ago while at a wedding reception I struck up a conversation with a guy who told me about the trouble he had with his neighbor. He felt that he had enough problems with his neighbor that he was forced to move. It was one of those stories that you come away with saying "better you than me." Several years later it is me and my family that are being subjected to a bad neighbor. I've created this web site as a form of therapy and to solicit your opinion.
I am a conservative, educated, hard working, law abiding citizen. I live on a once quiet cul-de-sac street in a large HOA in a medium size city. I'm married with children. I am fortunate that my job allows my wife to stay at home and give our kids all the attention they desire. I have a great deal of sympathy for those young families that are just starting out. It is beyond comprehension how a single income family can afford to support a spouse and child (much less children) AND buy a home. Don't get me wrong, we all make choices. Years ago I chose to live here, today my career dictates I stay here. I invest as best I can for retirement, college education, and the occasional vacation. I still live check-to-check. The bottom line is... you probably know someone just like me. Maybe you are me.
Several years ago is when the trouble started.
A home on our street was purchased by a new couple, Mr. & Mrs. Jones. I recall the day The Jones Family moved into their house. In an effort to be neighborly I approached them while they were out front on a pizza break. It wasn't much more than a quick "hello" but nevertheless I thought it important to make the gesture and welcome them to the neighborhood.
In a very short time Mr. & Mrs. Jones and their children could be found out front, enjoying their new neighborhood. I hate to judge a book by it's cover but Mr. Jones can best be described as "rough around the edges" - at least in appearance. Generally when he's not working he can often be seen in the front yard in nothing more than a pair of baggy shorts with his sometimes shaven head and tattoos worn as a kind of warning for all to see.
For the first year I knew Mr. Jones I made an effort to be cordial. We traded small talk. There was never going to be a love affair between the two families, we didn't have much in common, but we seemed to tolerate one another. I recall telling my wife that Mr. Jones was the kind of person that if I'd seen in a bar I would go out of my way to avoid, and as a neighbor... better to let a sleeping dog lie.
A year or so after they had moved into the neighborhood I noticed an annoying habit. Their young kids (all under age 10) began to play in the street. This wasn't the problem. The problem was that Mr. Jones could regularly be heard screaming at passing cars to slow down. He made sure that everyone on the street knew that if you drove past his home and you were traveling at a speed that he didn't approve of, he was going to let you know. On some occasions his childish behavior turned dangerous as he would roll a ball in front of on-coming traffic or even chase after you on foot until he caught up with you once you eventually pulled into your own driveway. I didn't approve of his behavior and I was guilty of the "better you than me" tactic to avoid his harassment.
Our street includes dozens of homes. Up until this point in time you could have asked any of the other neighbors on my street who I was and the way they would have described me was as the guy that waved as they drove by. This is not to say that I was unapproachable or unfriendly. My choice was to keep to myself. My home is my castle and at the end of the day I prefer to go home to my family and be anonymous - versus going home to a street where people prefer to loiter and gossip. I understand that my desire for anonymity could be misinterpreted as elite or snob-ish, but I would suggest that if you didn't take the time to get to know me and your belief was that I had a superiority complex, then you were either lazy, ignorant or shy. Then again, maybe you bought into the same "keep to yourself" philosophy I tried to follow.
Still less than a year after Mr. & Mrs. Jones had moved in, one summer Saturday evening my wife and I were watching COPS on television (definitely not a show for the elite!). It was after 8 p.m. when we heard an argument. Because the window at the front of my home was open I could easily hear and then see Mr. Jones challenging another neighbor, Joe, to a fight. Apparently Joe had also become annoyed with Mr. Jones constant yelling at guests and residents. Basically the larger Joe told Jones to shut up. No punches were ever thrown (Mr. Jones started to take a swing at Joe but then held up at the last second, as if to see what reaction Joe would have). Several expletives were exchanged but eventually Jones turned and staggered away.
Throughout the rest of the summer Mr. & Mrs. Jones could regularly be heard yelling at one another. Homes on our street are built in close proximity - it's not difficult to hear a conversation over a fence or across the street, much less a full-blown yelling match. Loud fights became a common theme of their residency and persist to this very day. One of the most memorable (descriptive and disgusting) debates had to do with her denying his advances because every time he licks her she ends up with a yeast infection.
Not withstanding the previous example, the majority of the fights we regularly hear are of serious concern (and when I say "we" it isn't exclusive to my home). While I am not a doctor, I do know that there are several types of abuse; physical, neglect, emotional and sexual abuse. The emotional abuse that they inflict on one another on a weekly if not daily basis is bad enough to make Ozzy Osbourne sound like Mr. Rogers. I have heard him tell the kids that their mother is a lazy bitch. I have heard her tell the children to pass along the message that their father should go back to his whore (while Mrs. Jones was pregnant with their latest spawn Mr. Jones had an affair with another woman - then again in late 2004 he hooked up with an old flame, "Angie" -and why not? What's good for the goose should be good for the gander... Mrs. Jones told a neighbor in December of 2004 that she had been speaking with and considering rekindling a relationship with "Rob," an old high school flame. "Yeah," she said, "it's a double standard and all, Mr. Jones can but I can't?!" We'll see about that!)
Although I have not witnessed any signs of physical contact between Mr. & Mrs. Jones (nor towards their children), we know it exists. Fact, not rumor - what I assume could be defined as battery - at an earlier point in their relationship Mr. Jones pushed Mrs. Jones against a wall. He then elbowed her in the nose.
Mr. & Mrs. Jones continued to fight with one another, and I think it's how they communicate. But as much as they fight with each other my belief is that they are happiest when they are fighting with someone outside their family. It gives them the opportunity to unite. Still operating under the "better you than me" tactic, as long as they were fighting with someone else they seemed to see my wife and myself as no threat.
Mr. & Mrs. Jones are often guilty of volunteering more information than was prudent for any conversation. We heard stories that about an alleged workers comp settlement as being the source of the down payment for their home. On one occasion they were proud to tell us how Mr. Jones had been fired from a job because he hit his foreman. Mrs. Jones told of the common argument between the two... Who could get to the mailbox first? It seems that his parents would occasionally send them money to help out - if Mr. Jones got the check before Mrs. Jones he would sometimes spend it frivolously. It wasn't uncommon to hear her complain about a $140.00 trip he made to the local liquor store.
Sometime in 2001 Mrs. Jones gave birth to another child. Financially they appeared to be a struggling family trying to make ends meet. At the same time my wife and I were without child, both working, traveling and having fun. I can now see there may have been some jealousy. However, not to be outdone, they came up with a very clever nickname for us... the D.I.N.K.'s! Everything we did seemed to upset them.
Determined to go about our business my wife and I had researched the idea of remodeling our home. Because I live in an HOA I was required to get a signature and acknowledgment from our neighbors that there would be construction, noise, trucks, dirt, dust and the rest. I recall that on 03/10/03 as I knocked on The Jones door, she commented that "of course I'll sign it, just try not to make too much noise too early in the morning!"
Construction didn't start for three more months, 06/12/03. The morning before the laborers were to arrive I saw Mr. Jones out front. His wife's comment still fresh in my head I thought the courteous thing to do was to let him know that there was going to be some noise, starting tomorrow and continuing for the next few weeks. I doubt that I was closer than 3 or 4 feet from Jones but he reeked of alcohol. Years earlier Mrs. Jones would admit that he was intoxicated for 5 days (straight) - I shouldn't have been too surprised that he still had a problem. The cover of that book that I was so careful of prematurely judging when The Jones Family first moved in... well, Mr. Jones was living up (or in this case down) to my expectations.
Although I didn't realize it at the time, my small dog was a big source of contention for them. A neighbor of ours mentioned in passing that Mrs. Jones had made the comment to her that she (Mrs. Jones) was going to poison our dog. By no means are we without fault, our dog did sometimes bark. Then again two dogs on opposite sides of the same fence are bound to bark at one another once in a while. To help remedy this situation I purchased an electric fence. I placed it about 2 feet in front of our regular fence. Our dog no longer had direct access to our neighboring common fence. He still barks every so often, but he is a small lap dog that lives the majority of his life in doors. When I inquired of the neighbor on the other side of my home she made it clear that barking had never been a problem.
During the early part of 2003 The Jones Family continued to mark their territory. On a semi-regular basis their children could occasionally be witnessed riding small (50cc or less) motorcycles. Dangerous and sometimes annoying.
We didn't know it, but the events of 06/18/03 were going to raise the stakes. One afternoon while I was away, my wife was walking-out a guest to say good bye. My wife, our child, family friend and her two children began to walk to their car. They were unaware The Jones 75 pound dog was lose. When their dog saw my wife/kids/friends, he began to charge. Mr. Jones was quick to grab a shovel and only steps behind caught up to their pet and began to beat the dog with a shovel (allegedly to insure that the dog did not attack). The dog did not bite or jump on anyone. The children and adults were frightened and concerned about the obvious abuse to the dog. After the incident Jones did offer a pseudo-apology. When I returned home my wife explained what had happened. She felt very strongly that I should go to Mr. & Mrs. Jones and ask that they be more careful with their dog. This was not the first time their pet had shown aggression or the first time that Mr. Jones had been abusive towards him. After discussing the matter with my wife I did go to The Jones home and expressed my concerns. Because we were concerned that there might be a next time we decided to inform animal control - and in doing so, leave a paper trail.
On 06/24/03 animal control made a visit to the home of Mr. & Mrs. Jones. Shortly after animal control left their home Mrs. Jones came knocking on my front door. She was VERY upset that we had reported the incident to the authorities. She commented that she was disappointed that we couldn't work this out like adults. She threatened to reciprocate.
Saturday morning, 06/28/03, I was on my way to the local home improvement center. As I walked towards my car parked in the street in front of my home I noticed Mr. & Mrs. Jones quickly approaching me. By the time I was in my car Mr. Jones was blocking the front of my car and Mrs. Jones was at my car door, motioning for me to roll down my window. While I was in the shower the police had already made a visit to The Jones home. Given the timing of the prior visit by the animal police, The Jones assumed that it was me that called the regular police. I faced a barrage of profanity but eventually drove off and went about my business. I later found out that another neighbor had heard what they thought was domestic violence between the two and called the police to report the fight. Domestic violence had plagued their relationship years earlier, she is confirmed saying about Mr. Jones that "I am very afraid of him because his is very violent." My guess is that one of the other concerned neighbors was looking out for Mrs. Jones... better safe than sorry.
On 07/01/03, while working at home, an officer from animal control made a visit to my home. They were responding to a call that had been made concerning the alleged abuse towards my pet. Never one for an original thought Mr. & Mrs. Jones were going to retaliate tit-for-tat.
Not surprisingly, to this day The Jones Family remain unconcerned about their animals, as recently as 01/08/05 their side gate was left unattended, their dog was roaming the street and was video taped defecating in my front yard.
Between 07/02/03 and 07/22/03 The Jones were relentless. Either one or both were constantly approaching me at my home (sometimes in my front yard, sometimes at my front door). They complained about everything from my dog barking, bushes growing over a common fence, the bee's that lived in the bushes, me not controlling the bee's that might fly into their backyard, the fact that I parked too closely to their cars (also parked on the street), and that my wife was a "bitch" (Mrs. Jones words not mine).
On 07/21/03 I received a letter from my HOA instructing me to take care of my overgrown bushes. Right away I called my home owners association. Expecting my call they told me that if I were to follow up on the letter that I should simply dismiss it as a technicality. They further explained that given the source of the complaint (The Jones) that they/the HOA suspected that this was nothing more than a waste of time. It seems that in addition to problems with their neighbors, Mr. & Mrs. Jones also had problems with the HOA.
On 07/23/03 I mailed a letter to Mr. & Mrs. Jones instructing them that I would have my gardener go into their yard to trim the bushes. I saw no reason to put myself in harms way. I felt that a letter was a good way to formailize my intentions as well as to have as little interatction with Mr. & Mrs. Jones as possible. I didn't want to give them any reason to start arguments and pick fights with me. From this point forward it was my intention to have little or no face-to-face and ALL commuication in writing.
After never haven taken the opportunity, I eventually struck up a conversation with Joe. Joe was the much-larger-than-Jones-neighbor who had almost gone fist-to-cuffs that summer evening a year earlier. I learned that Joe and I had many similar experiences with Mr. & Mrs. Jones. A few days later I engaged a conversation with yet another neighbor, Don, who lived further down the street and another victim of The Jones harassment. Don and I quickly came to the conclusion that if there were three households that felt this strongly about the behavior of The Jones Family there must certainly be more.
Don organized a neighborhood meeting for the evening of 08/12/03 and mailed an invitation to all residents on our street, including both Mr. & Mrs. Jones. We had a good turn-out. HOA Board members, and about 20 residents from our street (including Mrs. Jones, but not Mr. Jones). Don tried to maintain control via parliamentary procedure and followed our written agenda which included (1) a proposed Neighborhood Watch Program, (2) an annual BBQ, and (3) an open forum for discussion. It was at this point when two or three other neighbors that I had never met also expressed their concern about The Jones children running rough-shot through our streets on their motorcycles. Several residents made the point that one of the kids could be seriously hurt if the activity were allowed to continue. The conversation quickly deteriorated, turned into an argument and ended shortly thereafter. However, we did all agree to put the past behind us and start fresh. As we left the meeting Mr. Jones was found staggering in the middle of the street, maybe intoxicated, and definitely muttering that we were "stupid," among other things. Don took the minutes of the meeting and mailed them to everyone on the street. A date for the BBQ was set and hosted a few months later in October. After the meeting Don drafted a letter about the motorcycle riding. Eleven neighbors and myself signed and mailed the letter to Mr. & Mrs. Jones. Needless to say, things weren't about to get better.
With the exception of a few outbursts and some childish behavior the months of September, October, and November 2003 were fairly quiet. Yes, the kids still rode their motorcycles. Yes, Mr. Jones could be found harassing cars that drove by. But on the whole, it was tolerable (given the alternative). The Jones apparently turned their angst towards one another.
I have no idea what may have lit the fuse beneath Mr. & Mrs. Jones, but their behavior was about to take another turn for the worse. On 12/07, 12/10, 12/14 & 12/16/03 either Mr. or Mrs. Jones could be heard indiscriminately blasting an air-horn. Apparently I wasn't the only one on the street that heard the nuisance. During this time frame at least three other neighbors had also heard some or all of the disturbances. Eventually we all signed a complaint and forwarded it to our home owners association. In turn the HOA mailed a letter to Mr. & Mrs. Jones asking them to stop (or be fined if the activity were to continue). On 12/20/03 at least one other neighbor and myself heard the noise violation again. Sadly, the HOA never followed up.
Don't forget, the Jones M.O. is tit-for-tat. I shouldn't have been surprised when on 12/21/03 a deputy from the local police department made a visit to my home. As I invited him in I noticed Mrs. Jones standing out front of my home, HOA letter in hand, and a cat-bird grin from ear to ear. The officer was responding to a call that was made by Mrs. Jones. She complained that my dog had been barking for hours and that Mr. Jones was unable to sleep. I took the officer in my backyard to show him the electric fence that I had installed years earlier for exactly this reason. He seemed to understand that this was less of a pet-issue and more likely a people-issue. He apologized and left.
My parents had been visiting our home that same afternoon. They were in disbelief as we discussed the ongoing situation. As a way to help deal with some of the stress my parents offered to take my dog home with them and doggy-sit for a while, at least until things calmed down. I accepted their offer.
At 7:50 am the following morning, 12/22/03, while walking to my car Mr. Jones stepped into my yard and approached me. This would be the first time we had spoken since I had mailed my letter back in July instructing him not to come on my property but to correspond in writing. As he stood within inches of my face I knew that he wasn't there to wish me a Merry Christmas or to sing carols. In a threatening tone he told me that I could complain to whoever I wanted but that wouldn't stop him. He said that I needed to do something about my dog. He implied violence. Perhaps smarter than the typical high school bully he knew better than to throw the first punch, he had proven that with Joe two years earlier. He was looking for inadvertent contact. He was looking for a reason to hit me... and claim self defense, no doubt. I was cognizant of the situation and took one step backward. I knew that he was an ambulance chaser who had bragged about a settled workers comp claim with his employer as well as their numerous small claims court appearances. Mr. Jones was looking for another law suit. I chose my words very carefully, I told him that he was "entitled to his opinion but that he was exaggerating the situation to the N-th degree." I went back into the house and immediately wrote in my journal. My choice of words would later prove that he would eventually lie about the confrontation. I would later describe in my restraining order the confrontation using exactly those words, "...the N-th degree." His version was inaccurate and ficticious.
Two days after the police had visited my home, and a day after Mr. Jones trespassed in my front yard, at 11 am on 12/23/03 even "G-Dub-ya" would have been in shock and awe when I received yet another visit from animal control. Earlier that morning the Animal Cops took a complaint from the Jones household. It seems that our vacationing dog was still barking and still bothering Mr. & Mrs. Jones. They chose to lie to the authorities about the who, what and when.
I was honestly frightened. If these people were going to lie to the police and animal control about a dog that wasn't within 50 miles of my home, what else were they capable of?
I again called the police. I explained that a neighbor had been making false reports and that this person implied violence towards me. I wanted to continue my paper trail but I didn't want the police to come to my home. Past experience had proven that the only thing the police were helping to do was to add fuel to The Jones fire. The officer to whom I spoke suggested that if I was frightened of Mr. Jones that I should consider filing a restraining order against him.
So far nothing had worked and a restraining order was a major step. If I had ever hoped that I would be able to mend fences with Mr. & Mrs. Jones there would be no turning back if I attempted the get a permanent injunction against them. My wife and I considered and reconsidered our options. The sad reality was that previous efforts had failed to send the message to The Jones to leave us alone. This was easily one of the biggest decisions I'd have to make in quite some time.
With the understanding that there were no guarantees we decided that a restraining order was a good course of action. Hoping to hedge my bets I didn't want to take any risk, I hired an attorney to assist in my case. He too advised me that the restraining order was not iron clad.
On 12/29/03 I went to the county court house and requested a temporary restraining order. It was granted on 12/31/03 and served to Mr. Jones with the summons to appear in court. Happy New Year! The police confiscated his guns. The court date was set for 01/20/04 and the next 20 days proved to be a circus.
A temporary restraining order is just that, temporary. However, until the judge hears the case it is valid and enforceable, which means that if Jones violated the restraining order he could be put it jail.
Believe it or not, sending Mr. Jones to jail wasn't what I wanted. What I wanted was nothing more than for him to leave my family alone. Only three days later, at 10:30 am on 01/03/04, while I was working on my car in my driveway Mr. Jones was pushing the envelope. With my back towards him I heard Mrs. Jones in a frantic voice calling out to him, "Jones?!" He walked up from behind and passed within a few feet as he went to speak to the neighbor that lived further down the street. I did not call the police.
A few days later while I was walking my dog Mrs. Jones had followed me in her car. With camera in hand she stopped in the middle of the road and waited for me to walk past her automobile. As I walked by she rolled down her window and took a picture of me and my dog. She later confessed that she was "gathering evidence." To say that their behavior was elementary would be an insult to 5-year olds everywhere.
The neighbors that live next door to me was the no-issue-with-my-dog-neighbor and her criminal defense attorney husband. Did I telegraph this punch? Wasn't it only a matter of time before Mr. Jones and an attorney became friends? Regardless, both Mr. & Mrs. Jones went on a very public neighborhood marketing campaign to denounce us and spin themselves as the victim.
I assumed that neighborhood lines were being drawn in the sand. I also assume that everyone has their own taste. There was no reason why The Jones couldn't have neighbors that were also friends. Just as I had the right to my anonymity they had the right to befriend the neighbor-attorney. I saw no harm in this. I didn't intend to go into court and convince the judge that The Jones couldn't be friendly with their own cohorts - I was there to testify under oath that Mr. Jones had been harassing me. As a show of support, five other neighbors on my street volunteered to take the day off from work in order to testify on my behalf either what they had witnessed towards me or better yet, what they had been victim of by Jones himself.
Four of my five witnesses waited off-site until they needed to be called to the stand. I wasn't too surprised that Mr. & Mrs. Jones had an attorney - it was a family member of The Jones - no doubt he was doing them a favor. I wasn't too surprised that the neibhor-attorney was there to lend his support to The Jones Family. It wouldn't have made a difference, the neighbor-attorney wasn't in the front yard with me the morning that Mr. Jones threatened and harassed me.
This was the first time I had ever been in a setting like this. I was naive to think that right would prevail over might. I didn't expect that Mr. Jones had prepared a response to my court filing in which he either lied about or denied each accusation that I had made. Instead of hearing both sides of the story from Jones or myself, instead of hearing testimony from 6-8 witnesses, the Commissioner-Judge proved that justice was blind. She decided that the two versions of the story were so polar opposite that she wouldn't hear any of it. She dismissed the restraining order and released Mr. Jones weapons back into his custody. Jones won this battle, but I continued to leave a paper trail in case his next victim needed my history.
The "judge" wouldn't hear either Jones or myself explain the situation. What I had been dealing with for three years and had come to a dangerous boiling point that morning in my front yard, she managed to dismiss in less than 30 minutes. She scolded the two of us. Her best advice was to "get along or move." Yes, our legal system at its finest!
Regardless of what the "judge" did or didn't say, the next four months Mr. & Mrs. Jones seemed to have read between the lines. They seemed to get the message. But then again January through April can produce cooler temperatures. It was only a matter of time before the heat would be turned up both literally and figuratively.
I had no doubt that the illusion of serenity could be shattered at any time. Regardless, true to my word and hoping to pre-empt another complaint from The Jones, I intended to trim the bushes that bordered the fence. I mailed them a letter asking for any number of dates that would be convenient for them. Of course they would later be heard complaining that I mailed them a letter, and I must have had some master plan to break my word. I was simply trying to maintain my distance. I thought I had made myself clear in my previous letter back in July 2003. Of course Mr. Jones approached me in December. As if that weren't enough Mrs. Jones had also found an excuse to ignore my wishes and bang on my front door yet again (this time I didn't answer). I felt that I had to be very explicit with them in my May 2004 letter and reiterate our desire to keep face-to-face contact to a bare minimum.
Mrs. Jones could also be referred to as "Mrs. Contrary." If I said black, she'd say white - all for the sake of arguing. It seems that many times you have a conversation with Mrs. Jones she would fabricate the conversation to suite her needs, for example, if I said the sky was blue she would tell you that I told her I was going to punch her in the face. For exactly these reasons I continued to write letters to The Jones because words on a piece of paper could not be twisted out of context. Perhaps I should have used mono-syllabic words. Eventually even the letters hit too close to home as the truth often hurts. After one of my letters Mrs. Jones decided to call the local police and even the district attorney's office to put a stop to the letter writing. It seems that her mail was agitating her. When it became clear that the officer wasn't going to arrest anyone for writing a letter she got frustrated and sent the police away.
On 04/24/04 while working in my backyard The Jones Family and their in-laws were heard riding their motorcycles. In and of itself, no big deal - right? Consider that they rode their motorcycles on the streets and sidewalks in front of and behind your home continuously and relentlessly for over 6 hours. If you were unfortunate enough to make eye contact with Mr. Jones there was no doubt you would hear Jones scream like a wild banshee. This was his way to let you know it was his street! Eventually it was going to grate on your nerves. Even though we disagreed on what to do, my wife and I decided to do nothing. I didn't want to acknowledge the behavior and perpetuate the situation.
The following day, 04/25/04 at 9 am The Jones clan were riding their motorcycles. Someone obviously called the police, they showed up later in the day. I continued my paper trail and informed the HOA with an e-mail. I'm not sure what the police told The Jones Family but it didn't make any difference. The police left and The Jones were riding their motorcycles again.
For a while Mr. & Mrs. Jones and his family could be found riding their motorcycles during the week as well as the weekends. He was out of work for quite some time.
While Mr. Jones spent his temporary unemployment fighting with Mrs. Jones I spent a few hours of vacation time to go to the local police departments with photos of the mini-motorcycles that were taking over our street. Each agency agreed that the motor-driven cycles were not legal on public streets. The issue was that it was a fairly new problem and they couldn't answer the calls fast enough. To add insult to injury not all police officers were enforcing the code in the same manner.
The following weekend, 05/09/04, The Jones were again riding their motor-driven cycles. Sometime around 11 am I phoned-in a complaint to the police. This time the police arrived as one of the children were riding the motorcycle. I thought the officer issued a ticket or a warning. Whatever the police said or did made both Mr. & Mrs. Jones very angry. When the police officer left Mr. Jones could be heard screaming, "You're all jealous!" Of what I'm not sure.
Around 2 o'clock that same day, The Jones loaded up their truck and left. Around 3 o'clock, with my kids in-tow, we took Mom out for the day and then to dinner. As we arrived home just after 6 pm we were disappointed to see a police car in front of our home. My wife and I did our best to ignore Mrs. Jones as we went from our car to our front door. Mrs. Jones was ecstatic. She was actually jumping up and down and signing, "It's legal, it's legal, we win again!" In spite of the earlier visit by the police it seems that The Jones had again rode their motorcycles, the police again responded, and as luck would have it the officer on the scene didn't get the memo regarding the mini-motorcycles and did nothing to stop them. Before the officer drove off I saw Mrs. Jones approach the police car. She motioned towards my home and could be heard telling the officer that it was us that had called the police. Yeah, I know what you're thinking... you weren't home?!?
Between 05/09/04 and 06/21/04 we personally witnessed Mr. & Mrs. Jones and their children riding their motorcycles no fewer than 17 times. I witnessed approximately the same number of police visits. I sent approximately the same number of e-mails to my HOA. And what did The Jones do? They bought more mini-motorcycles. They may not have been able to afford it, but they could be heard complaining that "...as long as I own this home there is no way that anyone is going to tell me what to do!" What they fail to recognize is that when you buy a home in a planned unit development there are CC&R's that limit some of the things you are and aren't allowed to do. They failed to recognize that riding motorcycles on the private footpath behind the homes is not allowed.
During this particular dark period I had a conversation with yet another neighbor, Ray. He gave me the idea to write a letter to the Chief of Police. On 05/14/04 I did. The chief and a sergeant wrote back and even called. Unlike some of the officers that had visited our street he had no hesitation when he explained that the pocket rocket motorcycles are illegal, and that I should call the police any time I saw them on public streets. My real concern was a 7-year old riding at high speeds on our busy street. Mr. & Mrs. Jones were dumb like a fox, they regularly went up to the proverbial line but were careful not to cross it. They knew that the police either couldn't or wouldn't arrive for about an hour after they started their activity. They knew that they could pester their neighbors and put the bikes away before the police could respond. Eventually the police would show up. Mr. & Mrs. Jones would "cry" victim and harassment. Later they'd be at it again.
This situation was littered with irony. It was ironic that The Jones were the ones guilty of disturbing the peace, but yet they felt that the self imposed frequent police visits were violating their rights. It was ironic that The Jones claimed that the motorcycles were legal, but never tempted the police by riding the motorcycles in front of the police. It was ironic that they claimed to be "good people" but were bad neighbors to so many people on our street.
These motorcycles were never intended for use on public streets and could not be registered. That fact cannot be disputed. I don't know about you but I've never been tolerant of "ignorance" being an excuse for bad or illegal behavior. This is the card they regularly played.
On 06/21/04 at 9 pm I noticed two police cars parked in front of my home. The police were intent on watching the home of The Jones Family. Something must have happened earlier that evening, another neighbor must have called the police. What turned this situation ugly was that 60-something-old-man-attorney-neighbor went out of his way to stick his nose where it didn't belong. As he motioned to my home I overheard him tell the police that if the cops were on our street it must have been because of my complaining. He went on to defend Mr. & Mrs. Jones and make that statement that they were "good people." Again pointing in my direction, "They hate Mr. & Mrs. Jones. They filed a restraining order against Jones. They hate 'em."
This old man posed as an officer of the court. He is an attorney. So much for the higher standards you'd hope to find in the law profession. I know, one apple doesn't ruin the whole bunch, but this old man proved the stereo-type to be true. Interestingly enough, through public record and the State Bar Association... surprise, surprise... old-man-attorney-neighbor had been suspended twice! What are the chances that I live between two winners? At least I was able to confirm why these two people seemed to have so much in common. They both had a checkered past.
From 06/22/04 through the evening of July 4th our street remained more or less quiet.
After the fireworks display at our local park, at 9:35 pm Mr. Jones would give us the another explosive show.
In our state fireworks are illegal. Nevertheless on the 4th of July you can always expect the local pyromaniacs to come out of the woodwork. Some people just aren't happy unless their blowing something up and this year was no different. As the evening grew dark you would have to be deaf not to hear all of the fireworks. My small dog is frightened by loud noise. We tried as best we could to screen out the sound by closing the doors and windows and turning up the television. Mr. Jones, not able to leave well enough alone found it necessary to call me out by name and yell at me over the fence. "Hey... you better call the police! Hey! People are having fun, call the police." Harassment by anyone's definition. You better believe if the shoe was on the other foot, and it was me yelling directly at them... they would have come UN-DONE!
Little did I know this wouldn't be the end of Mr. Jones threatening behavior that evening. Around 11 pm as I was going to bed I heard a disturbance towards the end of our street. I walked out in my front yard. Near the end of the cul-de-sac I could see a gathering of people. I came back into my home when I saw Mr. & Mrs. Jones and his parents walking away from the scuffle and back in my direction. I overheard Mr. Jones father explaining "that's what happens when alcohol is involved... (and)...they had you outnumbered!" Mr. Jones had decided to take the law in his own hands when he became agitated over someone else setting off fireworks. Always one to be the enforcer on the street, he was going to dole out his vigilante justice. This time it turned into another fight.
Several days later a neighbor had asked me if I heard what happened in the early morning hours of July 5th. I finally got around to watching my surveillance tapes of the same evening Jones had called me out. A guilty pleasure - I caught on tape Mr. Jones being taken out of his home in hand-cuffs.
This isn't the end of his behavior, and he is dangerously close to violating his own standard of what defines a "Good Person." Oh wait, that's right, he's been arrested at least once and taken out in handcuffs another time (that we know of). The Jones are either going to have to reconsider their definition of a "Good Person" or continue to lie about the past.
Why Do This?
Part of it truly is therapeutic. You know, the letter you write but never send... well, there is some satisfaction in having sent the letter, so to speak.
Part of it is that I'm running out of options. The "system" has let me down. I tried to reason with Mr. & Mrs. Jones, they wanted to argue. I called the police, they told me to take The Jones to court. I went to court, the judge said that Mr. Jones doesn't meet her criteria of violence.
This is a public forum... free therapy... freedom of speech. Will the public humiliation deter their behavior? Not likely.
Part of it is the fellowship. If it's happening on my street it's most likely happening on thousands of streets around the world. You are not alone! It is amazing, the information that is available as public record. What do you know about your neighborhood bully? Information is power! But first you have to ask yourself the question, which is worse... the devil you know or the devil you don't?
The Bottom Line
If you've taken the time to read any portion of my story (especially if you've invested the time to read the excruciating details in Our Story) you have a small taste of what my family has put up with.
In spite of what you've read and what we've been through I do not hate my neighbors. I don't approve of their behavior, but I don't really know them, much less hate them. I am indifferent.
I want to be able to enjoy my home. I don't want to worry about being in my front yard and wondering if they'll stay away or again choose to trespass or harass my family. I'm tired of them slandering my good name to any passer-by that might listen. I don't want to worry about being in my back yard and hearing the constant and excessive barrage of profanity.
Whether you appreciated the entertainment value of this site or you are genuinely motivated to offer some "words of wisdom," I would appreciate any constructive feedback that you can offer.
The Paper Trail
During my college years I quickly learned that if I was going to succeed in class I was going to have to pay attention and take notes. Attention to detail is something that has always come easy. Other than intuition I didn't know exactly why I started keeping a journal about all my run-in's with The Jones Family back in July, 2003.
In this day and age of "CYA" I guess I'm just trying to keep up with The Jones's.
My first journal entry came about because of the dog scare during June, 2003. My wife and I had seen the fight between Joe and Mr. Jones, we had witnessed an increasing percentage of other neighbors going through the same thing. We knew that Mr. & Mrs. Jones spent a lot of time in court. We were learning that they didn't like us. We wanted to make sure we kept our facts straight.
The first letter I wrote to Mr. & Mrs. Jones was in July, 2003. I had grown tired of their verbal abuse and did as best I could to explain in writing, without offending them that we would agree to disagree and not to bother me at my home.
Mr. & Mrs. Jones are paranoid. They don't trust what web sites the other spouse might be frequenting, much less trust the neighbors that they have alienated (and do you blame her given his infidelity?). Regardless, Don and I knew that given the tension in the neighborhood Mr. & Mrs. Jones might not want to participate in a Neighborhood Meeting. We tried our best to make sure that everyone was invited. Don addressed and mailed invitations to everyone. We didn't intend to waste our time on things we couldn't control, so we made sure to follow an agenda. We invited third parties (HOA members, Neighborhood Watch Representatives). For those neighbors that couldn't attend we made sure to notify everyone on the street of the outcome and minutes of the meeting. True to form Mrs. Jones ego assumed that the entire evening was for her benefit. Given the circumstances, the children riding motorcycles, the danger involved and several neighbors on the street expressing concern about the safety of The Jones children Don and I quickly drafted a letter. We had no problem finding 10 other concerned citizens volunteering their name and support. We wanted Mr. & Mrs. Jones to know that the prospect of a dead child was not intended as comic relief.
If you allow her, Mrs. Jones will claim to be insulted that I have the nerve to write her a letter and ask for her cooperation in order to maintain her side of the fence. She will go on and on about how she hasn't spoken to us in 3 years. To this day Mrs. Jones will deny that she would ever "step foot" on our property. Video surveillance cameras on the front of my home might sound excessive, but if I wouldn't have done so I have no doubt that Mrs. Jones would come over to vandalize my property. She explained on 10/27/04 to another neighbor that she wanted to finger paint (obscenities, no doubt) on my driveway, but then realized it would all be on video too. She is also rumored to say that she wants to do "something" but if she did then she'd "...go to jail... and that would give too many people satisfaction."
The sad truth is that these video cameras are the types of measures that are necessary to keep people like the Jones in line.
The police have made dozens of visits to our street in the last 2 years. In the 21 month period between 11/13/02 and 7/12/04 the police made 15 visits in which they issued a "Call Number." This information, know as a "Call For Service" report, is a matter of public record. It is worth noting that there were approximately the same number of visit during the same time in which a "Call Number" was not issued. It is also worth noting that this report is specific only to Mr. & Mrs. Jones address... in other words, when Mr. Jones got into another confrontation during the early morning hours of 07/05/04 and the police were dispatched to the scene, that specific "Call Number" does not appear on Mr. Jones record because the disturbance took place at another address.
At the height of the recent motorcycle riding, neighbors complaining and police visits Mr. & Mrs. Jones were appearantly "advised" to mail a letter to the neighborhood threatening to sue their neighbors if they didn't stop calling the police (when witnessing illegal activities).
The hypocrisy that Mr. & Mrs. Jones are guilty of is sickening. Mrs. Jones especially. When you put her in front of an audience she will try to say all the right things. Certainly you know someone just like her - she is an expert on EVERYTHING. She will tell you that she doesn't hold a grudge or that she prefers to handle situations like an adult. The Jones will not leave us alone.