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'[OT]: neighbor harassment'
2004\07\18@003206 by Bob J

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Hi All,

Long story short: my dad, who is 74 and recently suffered a heart attack, is being harassed by his neighbor. Its been going on over a year, but my parents never wanted me to know, they are loving people that sometimes keep their problems to themselves.  I just found out about this today.

It all started when my dad offered to clean up their yard and mow it for them.

I spoke to some of my mom and dad's other neighbors today to get a the third-hand account of what has been going on: they have tried to talk to the neighbor in question in a reasonable manor and came away saying that guy is a real jerk.  The police have been involved, and have said there is little they can do without proof, of course.  Their neighborhood association has had some success in dealing with this guy, forcing him to clean up his yard; but that has only egged him on further in harassing Dad.  To add insult to injury, he is an attorney.  A very bad one at that.  He has been fired from several firms, made some career changes, has made several fraudulent insurance claims, threatens to sue everyone, etc.  A real piece of work (and a currently unemployed one at that).  What I've gathered today from the conversations I had with some of the other neighbors is that he is trying to piss my dad off enough to get him to haul off and hit him, so he would have grounds to sue.  !
Unbelievable!!!

This guy literally sits on his porch facing my parents' home, shouting obscenities at Dad to try to get him worked up.  He tries his best to ignore him, but the guy won't quit, and it has gotten to him.

Every fiber of my being right now wants to go over there and kick this guy's ass.  I am no couch potato, 32 run/lift weights and would have no problems with him.  But that would only play into what he wants, and I'm smarter than that.  He is certainly no match in wits with me, either.  So doing the right thing is to gather evidence.  Two different neighbors have offered to help any way they can, but they are not technical.

After googling for surveilance cameras, and after wading through the all the pop-ups, its akin to drinking out of a fire hose trying to find a good setup.

If any of you piclisters have had experience with this stuff, and could point me to some good low cost ccd cameras that have good low-light capability, I'd love to hear about it.  I would like to set up three cameras, either b/w or color (whichever one works best in both day and night), and set up a spare pc I have in their garage, and let the pc do the recording.  Having sound is a requirement, so is motion detection.  I'm debating having them clearly visible; maybe this would get him to stop but it may egg him on even further in a "legal" way.  I am thinking I could set up XP on this box, dial into it and take control of it via remote desktop.

I need to nail this guy.  Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Regards,
Bob

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2004\07\18@004242 by Engineering Info

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Bob,

I don't know if this is true only for my State of if this is a Federal
law but video recording my neighbor would be legal for me, voice
recording would not (unless you can get his permission HAHA).  Would
want you to do some illegal recording that he can use against you in court.

Bob J wrote:

>If any of you piclisters have had experience with this stuff, and could point me to some good low cost ccd cameras that have good low-light capability, I'd love to hear about it.  I would like to set up three cameras, either b/w or color (whichever one works best in both day and night), and set up a spare pc I have in their garage, and let the pc do the recording.  Having sound is a requirement, so is motion detection.  I'm debating having them clearly visible; maybe this would get him to stop but it may egg him on even further in a "legal" way.  I am thinking I could set up XP on this box, dial into it and take control of it via remote desktop.
>
>

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2004\07\18@030031 by Josh Koffman

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Couple of things. First off, talk to the police. Find out what they
need to charge this guy. I wouldn't spend time or money until you know
exactly what you need. Second, you may not need fancy motion
detectors, etc. You might make do with a regular camcorder (perhaps
with a remote mic planted outside). Have someone in the house turn it
on when your dad goes outside. Chances are, you don't need to document
every single time this guy harasses your dad. Then again, that might
help.

In any case, http://x10.com used to have some low light cameras and
motion sensors. Beware the many popups, etc. It's been years since I
ordered from them, but way back when they were pretty reliable.

You're doing the right thing. Bringing irrefutable evidence to court
is a great way to get a lawyer. And if his reputation sucks, well that
just works to your advantage.

Good luck!

Josh
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On Sat, 17 Jul 2004 23:42:24 -0500, Bob J <piclistspamKILLspammail.cscape.net> wrote:
> If any of you piclisters have had experience with this stuff, and could point me to some good low cost ccd cameras that have good low-light capability, I'd love to hear about it.  I would like to set up three cameras, either b/w or color (whichever one works best in both day and night), and set up a spare pc I have in their garage, and let the pc do the recording.  Having sound is a requirement, so is motion detection.  I'm debating having them clearly visible; maybe this would get him to stop but it may egg him on even further in a "legal" way.  I am thinking I could set up XP on this box, dial into it and take control of it via remote desktop.

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2004\07\18@105723 by D. Jay Newman

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> This guy literally sits on his porch facing my parents' home, shouting obscenities at Dad to try to get him worked up.  He tries his best to ignore him, but the guy won't quit, and it has gotten to him.

My suggestion: record it. This isn't wiretapping.

Suggest to your father that he starts keeping a journal on a voice
recorder of some sort (tape or something that can be saved long-term).

Have him do this while he is outside.

If the voice of the other guy happens to also be recorded, I can't see
where that would violate the law.

Make sure that the recorder is visible and that the other neibors know
that he is keeping a journal and can back him up.

Likewise, maybe your father could take to video-taping birds as a hobby.
If the other guy starts shouting, what would be more natural than looking
at him, with the video camera following.

> After googling for surveilance cameras, and after wading through the all the pop-ups, its akin to drinking out of a fire hose trying to find a good setup.

As long as the other guy is staying on his side of the property, I don't
think that survailance cameras are the key. You might get in the way
of privacy laws.

> I need to nail this guy.  Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Good luck. Let's hope he doesn't read the PICLIST or know how to google.

And be very careful to stay legal and be prepared to fend yourself off
from a lawsuit by this guy.

ps. I don't want to nitpick, but it would *really* help us to respond
   to specific parts of your post if you would insert returns at the end
        of each line.
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2004\07\18@144315 by Engineering Info

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I am not a lawyer and therefore will not even try to interpret the law
but hopefully this will help determine the legalities.
http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/pIch119.html


D. Jay Newman wrote:

{Quote hidden}

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2004\07\18@152636 by Bob Ammerman

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----- Original Message -----
From: "Engineering Info" <spamBeGoneengineering-infospamBeGonespamEARTHLINK.NET>
To: <TakeThisOuTPICLISTEraseMEspamspam_OUTMITVMA.MIT.EDU>
Sent: Sunday, July 18, 2004 2:42 PM
Subject: Re: [OT]: neighbor harassment


> I am not a lawyer and therefore will not even try to interpret the law
> but hopefully this will help determine the legalities.
> http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/pIch119.html

IANAL, but TITLE 18, Part I, Chapter 119, Section 2511, Paragraph (2) (d)
seems to indicate that you can record it, if you are one of the parties to
the communication.

http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/2511.html

Bob Ammerman
RAm Systems

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2004\07\18@160220 by steve

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Give the local (? cable) TV channel a call. Tell them you have one of
"those" neighbors and could they suggest a) what you can and can't do
and b), what would make the most entertaining TV for them. You may
be able to come up with something that's mutually beneficial.

Steve

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2004\07\18@173756 by Engineering Info

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But wouldn't that mean that "Father" would have to actually engage in a
active conversation in order to be a party of the communication that he
is recording?  This is why I hate laws.  Too open to interpretation.

Bob Ammerman wrote:

>{Original Message removed}

2004\07\18@184559 by Matthew Brush

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I thought there was this "Patriot Act" that destroyed privacy laws?  I
bet they have changed A LOT in the last few years.

My understanding is that you are allowed to videotape or audiotape
anyone as long as they are in public.  I'm not sure if sitting on the
porch is "public" but surely it's not illegal to record the sounds
around ones house.

Is there a "neighbourhood association" ?  Sometimes they can put the
pressure on to get someone outta there.

It's so sad that there are people like that out there.  Makes me sick.
I'm not a religious person, but I do believe in the 10 commandments.

Good luck, hopefully good will overcome evil.

MJ Brush

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2004\07\19@091058 by M. Adam Davis

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Many state's laws regarding audio recording use language similar to
"reasonable expectation of privacy."  If one person is party in a
conversation, that person should generally be able to record the
conversation without notifying any other party.

It also means that you can record conversations that are at very loud
volumes - if your neighbors are yelling at each other and you overhear
them in your house they cannot have a reasonable expectation of privacy,
even though you are not specifically a party in their conversation.

This also means that you can't record a quiet conversation on a park
bench, as long as those involved in the conversation carry it in low
enough tones (or stop when someone nears).

A fairly good bar is - if you can hear it and record it without special
equipment (bugs, long range microphones, etc) and you are within view of
those holding the conversation (and they know you are there and can hear
them) then there is little reason to worry.

In this case, it should be perfectly fine to record audio of this
neighbor loudly berating or harrassing.

Video is another ball game.  In most states there are no laws regarding
video recording or transmission, though that is changing due to cases
where there was no easy way to prosecute people who set up cameras
(without audio) in other people's homes and viewed, recorded, and even
sold the resulting footage.

But you should be able to apply the same principles.  If you can see
something you can record it.  Think about the photos that papparazzi get
and aren't prosecuted for.  Perhaps zoom lenses and high definition
video recorders are out of bounds, but you can check your state laws.

I'd suggest speaking with a lawyer on this subject.  They will know the
laws in your state, and also understand how best to gather useful
evidence.  It'd be painful to go to all this trouble and then find out
that you can't use the evidence because of some minor technicality.

-Adam

Matthew Brush wrote:

{Quote hidden}

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2004\07\19@112636 by Bob J

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I want to thank you all for the suggestions and support in dealing with
this lawyer scumbag.  For now, I really pressed on my father to just ignore
this guy.  All he is trying to do is provoke him, and he knows he's getting to
him, and that's why he is doing it.  He doesn't need the stress.

I think maybe a nice friendly letter to his employer and to the bar association with a photo of some of the things he's put in his yard to show how great of a representative of the local legal community he is.

The other side of me is thinking is that we should put up a few fake video cameras in clear view of him just to have a little fun just to see him squirm, and laugh at him when he does.

Regards,
Bob

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2004\07\19@113735 by Chuck Busch

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Why not get Vinnie up in Chicago to "talk" to him a little.  Some folks just
need to get their priorities straightened out.


{Original Message removed}

2004\07\19@123207 by Win Wiencke

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> I don't know if this is true only for my State of if this is a Federal
> law but video recording my neighbor would be legal for me,
> voice  recording would not (unless you can get his permission
> HAHA).  Would  want you to do some illegal recording that he
> can use against you in court.

Under the United States Constitution as amended you have the right to
confront your accuser unless it is the government.

So here's how the drill works:  You go to court and say "he cursed me."  The
person you accused has the right to say nothing or respond.  Should the
accused respond saying "no I didn't" then the recording becomes "probative."
The question of the truth of your statement was raised by the accused and
you have the right to introduce evidence of the truth of your statement.

As a rule, nearly all of these neighbor vs.. neighbor cases settle on the
courthouse steps.  The other rule is that they rarely settle in practice,
the hostility becomes more covert and often more deadly.

The reason is that monetary damages in a suit like this are rather unlikely
and about all the court will do is issue an order telling the neighbors not
to talk to or at each other.  Should one neighbor violate the order, the
other neighbor has to go back to court with evidence and ask for a contempt
of court citation -- very messy.

One thought.  In the United States most jurisdictions require that a seller
disclose any known defects to a prospective real estate purchaser.  If you
can gather any evidence that the neighbor's hostility contributed to the
previous occupant leaving you might be able to get your purchase and
relocation expenses covered by the seller and the real estate firm.

The real estate firm and the seller in turn will have a clear case for
monetary damages against the hostile neighbor for the cost of undoing the
sale and the relocation.  The net result is that the foul mouthed neighbor
could be forced out by the damage claim and legal fees.

Try taking the matter to more than one lawyer.  They typically don't charge
for a half hour meeting to find out what you are looking for.  Look for
someone who has done some poverty law because there one must learn how to
genuinely resolve disputes when both parties have nothing to lose and can
quickly go to extremes.

Another strategy is to hire a private investigator.  They know how to get
the information in a useful form.  One gal I know hired a camera person and
went from door to door interviewing people about the neighborhood and what
they liked or disliked about it.  After a day she came away with on-camera
(broadcast quality no less) admissions and even descriptions by other
neighbors of what was going on.  I think the tab was US$1,500 for the camera
rental and cameraman.  If I recall correctly, the gal charged US$375 for her
services.

A final strategy -- and difficult one -- is to go to your local Public
Health officials.  The foul mouthed neighbor may be having severe mental and
physical problems sufficient to trigger PHS (Public Health Service)
intervention.  Unfortunately, public funding for PHS, like education, has
been somewhat eclipsed by the war on individual rights, so you might be
better off going to Homeland Security to reflect on the terrorist potential
of the foul mouthed neighbor.

All this is not legal advice, it is just a reflection of personal experience
and untutored opinion -- YMMV.

Win Wiencke

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2004\07\19@125128 by Win Wiencke

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<Bob Ammerman wrote in part>
> IANAL, but TITLE 18,
> Part I, Chapter 119, Section 2511, Paragraph (2) (d)
> seems to indicate that you can record it, if you are one of
> the parties to  the communication.
>
> http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/2511.html

Bob clearly points to the difference between a legal law and an engineering
spec or "law" of physics.

Laws are a function of jurisdiction (State, Federal, or local) and often
subject to wildly differing interpretation in individual courts.  What makes
the question of videotaping dicey is the other party's "reasonable
expectation of privacy."  The kind of privacy you'd expect for a
communication yelled across a public street will be different from the
privacy expected on a telephone.

Not too long ago there was a major exchange on this listserv about
photographing speeders.  There the State argues that there is no expectation
that your license be private and that the State's desire for safe streets
out weighs not being able to cross-examine a photograph (theoretically a
due-process violation).

Well, if you're sitting on your front porch yelling obscenities across a
public street I imagine a reasonable person would have a hard time
understanding why you expect privacy.

As usual this is not legal advise, merely untutored ruminations....

Win Wiencke

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2004\07\19@130828 by Win Wiencke

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<Bob J wrote in part>
> I think maybe a nice friendly letter to his employer
> and to the bar association with a photo of some
> of the things he's put in his yard to show how great
> of a representative of the local legal community he is.

Please don't.  The "friendly letter" and photograph could be misinterpreted
as slander.  A very expensive mistake even in the hands of a crummy lawyer.
You can spend a lot of time, energy and money trying to prove the truth and
*completeness* of what you said in the letter as well as what's shown in the
picture.

The correct venue for a complaint like this is (alas) the courts.  Unless
your claim is utterly fabricated and frivilous, you cannot be sued for
filing a court case.  If you prevail in court, then you can ask the Bar
Association for sanctions based on the irrefutable fact that the court found
the foul mouthed neighbor guilty.

Undoubtedly you hate feeling helpless while someone harasses your dad.  But
use the time to get your ducks in a row and then go after the neighbor.

This is not legal advice, just a personal reflection on the sad situation
described.

Win WIencke

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2004\07\19@140305 by M. Adam Davis

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A more straightforward action might simply be to look up the state's
obscenity laws, but more importantly local ordinances against swearing
in public.  There was a well publicized case in Michigan regarding a
cussing canoeist.  I don't know where the process is now, but the ACLU
was/is involved, and the michigan appeals court said the law violated
the first amendment.  But that's a much more defendable case (he swore
when he tipped over, kids and woman on shore clearly heard him) in your
case the lawyer would have a much harder time convincing the judge that
he's simply using his first amendment rights.

You don't even need video or audio coverage - just get a few neighbors
to act as witnesses.  Also remember that someone representing themselves
has a fool for a lawyer.  Get a good lawyer, and see if this guy will
impale himself on his apparently bad ability to do his job.

Alternately, appeal to your city council.  Get a petition signed against
this person and then shop around for a sympathetic ear.  You get brownie
points if you are located near an elementary school or on the path to
one if children have to be in your area on a daily basis.

The neighborhood association may also be able to put some more weight to
bear on this person, especially if there are rules concerning noise
pollution and general bad behavior.

Another thought is to check out the AARP in your area:
http://www.aarp.org/states/ Many states have laws on the books
concerning abuse/harrassment of the elderly.  You may not think of your
father as old, but the laws may still apply.  The AARP will have good,
if not great, resources on what to do in these situations, and may even
provide free counsel.

Alternately, get him on every minor item you can.  If his yard is a mess
complain to the city that it lowers your property value, and he should
be forced to maintain and certian level of cleanliness.  If he's
littering on your yard, make complaints against local littering
ordinances.  If he's the least bit noisy after 10pm (or whatever time
the noise ordinance kicks in) then complain.  If he changes his oil in
his driveway or the street (against ordinances in many cities) then
complain.

Also note that you'll have to make 3-4 or more complaints before any
action will typically take place.

Of course, you can also try to get his goat with unfailing kindness and
happiness.  Let him know that not only do his obscenities not matter to
you, you find it hilarious that he has nothing better to do.  Smile and
wave whenever he's around.  Let him know that you're glad he has such
strong opinions on certian subjects, but you find them useless except
for the occasional laugh they provide.

Also, consider recording conversations and making a website with
pictures and sound clips of this guy.  Nothing else - no commentary,
message boards, etc to avoid libel or slander suits.  Then put a big
sign outside your house advertising the website.  Make it abundantly
clear that if he stops harrassing your dad, the site will come down.
Put a button next to the computer which is hooked up in such a way that
when you dad presses it, the website turns on, and if it's not pressed
for 48 hours then it automatically goes dormant.  Let the neighbor know
that every insult brings the site back up.  lots of work on your part,
but probably less work and perhaps more effective than legal action.

I wouldn't do anything backhanded, like mailing his insurance company
pictures of his home and car in the hopes that they'll raise his rates.
Or throw roadkill on his roof.  Or put a single tiny tire spike in the
gutter at the end of his driveway (eventually it'll get him (or you if
it moves) and since he can't find more then he wouldn't know where his
tire picked it up).  Or pay the local ruffians to paper his house/trees
a few times a year.  Or respond to personal ads in various
papers/magazines/etc - especially the alternative lifestyle magazines -
in his name (or place some for him).  These are just wrong.  Fun, but
wrong.  Some are prosecutable too.

-Adam

Bob J wrote:

>This guy literally sits on his porch facing my parents' home, shouting obscenities at Dad to try to get him worked up.  He tries his best to ignore him, but the guy won't quit, and it has gotten to him.
>
>
>

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2004\07\19@191011 by John Tserkezis

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Bob J wrote:

> Long story short: my dad, who is 74 and recently suffered a heart attack,
> is being harassed by his neighbor. Its been going on over a year...

 Speaking from almost personal experience (family lives directly opposite
similar situation) I can tell you, although the legal option would be the
preferred, it appears the "Cousin Vinnie" option would yeald better results.

 Many years, many court cases, and many more police visits resulted in nothing
of any real tangeble improvement.

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2004\07\19@195255 by James Newton, Host

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Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent... On the other had, we all
find ourselves lacking a better solution more often than we might want to
admit! In almost every walk of life, at some point, it will boil down to who
is better at being deadly.

The trick is to not "escalate" the disagreement slowly, but, if you find
yourself at that point, to ensure that whatever you do, takes him past the
point where he will EVER think of retaliation. Convincing him that his life
is being spared by someone other than his victim and that he will NOT be
spared if he continues to act out would be the most sure way of putting a
stop to it.

E.g. "Vinnie" explains to this scum bag that he is picking on the wrong
guy... On someone who is owed favors / protection from very bad people in
very low places. With luck, "Vinnie" doesn't have to lay a hand on him...
Just a little quiet talk... With some goons over his shoulder. But at times,
there are people so stupid that they simply don't realize the need for
behavior modification due to imminent mortality and so a bluff can end up
being called.

Having been in the Navy, in a war, and having had the good luck to be of
assistance to a few Marines one time or another (Marines pick on Sailors,
but NO ONE else is allowed to do so. Sort of an older brother younger
brother thing) has been valuable to me at least once.

I didn't say that.

> {Original Message removed}

2004\07\19@215450 by Rich

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An important thing to remember is self control because when you lose your
control someone else will be in control.  Any marshal arts practitioner will
tell you that.  Be cool and use your cool as an enticement to get your
adversary to lose his self control.  For example, most angry people hate to
be laughed at.  Then when he loses it you can have him in your control and
you can push his buttons until he is so irrational that he acts out his
anger. Then you can record it.  He will look bad to put it mildly.

{Original Message removed}

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