Neighborhood Watch

The Sheriff lives on Filion Street. The Sheriff is a woman named Brittney. The Sheriff is not really a sheriff at all, yet has presented the following behaviors:

-Chalk marked our renter Jason’s car tires.
-Left notes on Jason’s car, my husband’s car, our neighbor Joe’s car, and in our mailbox (Allegedly. More on these notes later).
-Has shined her brights on various visiting friends to make them aware that they were parking on a “permit only” street.
-Has taken a picture of our friend Cory and announced herself as “the sheriff” of the street.

When we first moved in, we were happy that our very rambunctious dog Abigail had a nice big yard where she could run. She’s a runner. And a barker, I’ll admit. Abi is a gorgeous, brown, energetic, large-ish dog who can sleep-in until nine or ten a.m., which is nice for us on the weekends. Imagine our shock when a note (sans envelope) appeared in our mailbox regarding our dog. These are the details which make the note suspicious:

-A cut-and-pasted “City of Los Angeles.org” official logo on the top left (extra pixilated)
-Various misspellings and other grammatical errors
-The signing party—the Filion Street Homeowners Association (as homeowners on Filion Street, we were never aware such an organization existed)

Here is a transcript of the letter, verbatim:

ANIMAL NOISE COMPLAINTS

The Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control, a animal noise complaints- including barking dog Has been file against your animal.

Your animal has disrupt the peace and tranquility of residential neighborhoods.

Complaint begins a formal proceeding against the owner(s) of the animal(s). If necessary, an unresolved complaint will be turned over to the city attorney of the city where the problem exists or the District Attorney for possible prosecution.

Filion st Homeowners your dog keep us up all night
We have complaint before and now we are going to ask the City to remove your pets. We have the barking and times and hours on tape.

I’m not writing this to prove that my dog doesn’t bark all night, because that’s not necessary. She does not. She sleeps peacefully at the foot of our bed every night. Her barking habits usually involve romps through the backyard, squirrel chases, and loud addresses to arriving guests and other dogs walking by with their owners—almost exclusively during daylight hours and never for hours on end.

I mean, no one’s going to “remove” our dog. We are good dog parents. But the “barking and times and hours” were on tape? Clearly, we were being watched.

I would like to address, specifically, the mysterious and confusing (and incorrect) syntactical arrangements in this note. We were certain the city couldn’t have produced something so unofficial, and would have definitely put the note in an envelope with some postage. But if it was the Sheriff, we also couldn’t understand the masquerade. Why not just sign her name? If one is to pretend the position of a city official, shouldn’t one also adopt (i.e. copy) the professional verbiage of the official? This note exhibited a serious lack of professionalism, especially since it tried to appear that it came from both The City and the surreptitious Filion Street Homeowner’s Association.

We’ve talked directly to the Sheriff a few times. Once was after she called the city on us — allegedly— for what turned out to be improper tree trimming. A few days after an exasperating visit from a chagrined inspector (who said that “a neighbor” had called on many other houses on the street as well), John worked in the yard, trimming the trees to the city’s specifications. The Sheriff stopped to comment about how much better the yard looked. I thought the trees looked kind of bald.

The Sheriff is medium height, short-haired, tom-boyish. I have never seen anyone come over to visit her. She wears surf sweatshirts and Dockers. If anything, she’s incredibly “Cali,” a beachy cowboy local. She drives a Hummer; she saunters around so…western-like that we giggle to ourselves. Could she have written the letter? I had to wonder—was it really the Sheriff who was leaving these notes? And if it was, what motivated her? And did she not have a proofreader?

I started to watch the Sheriff: when she arrived home from work and walked from her car to her door, when she went out with her own dog (yes, an occaisional barker) on the weekends. I bought John a novelty t-shirt that says “Neighborhood Watch: We’re Gonna Get You Suckas.”

And I started to sleuth, to eliminate other possibilities. I asked our neighbor directly next door, a very sweet Korean woman if our dogs bothered. “No, no. They’re never a problem.” She smiled and we talked orchids. I asked Karen and her husband, a few doors down. Karen didn’t even know we had dogs. I asked Emily, who has lived on our street for fifty-seven years. Emily wanted to discuss another dog who had been barking during the night further down the block.

We surmised that it had to be the Sheriff, on one of her persecutin’ rants. But what’s so strange about her complaints is that they’re unfounded. It’s like she wants so badly to be the Sheriff that she makes up issues to “patrol.”

Here’s one more example for context:

A friend Cory was coming over for a bit on a fall evening. On the drive over he noticed a truck speeding behind him, so he moved to the slower lane and the truck passed. Later, he ended up behind the same truck at a nearby intersection, and trailed it up our street. When Cory looked for a place to park, the truck’s driver positioned the car so that its brights lit on Cory and out stepped the Sheriff.

“You don’t live here,” she said.

“Yeah,” replied Cory. “I’m coming over to visit my friends who live there.” He pointed to our house.

“Well, I’ve written down your license plate, sir. I don’t like the way that you drive.” And then she snapped his picture with a camera she held.

Cory arrived at our door a bit exasperated and feeling that awkwardness that comes when you are blamed for something you didn’t do. I think he was kinda traumatized.

Since I wrote this piece, the Sheriff has moved away. On a recent Saturday, she carried box after box out to her Hummer while we watched slyly from the window. A promotion perhaps? Did she buy a condo? It is a little bit true that I miss her. She gave us a story to tell, a mystery to solve. It’s the end of an era here on Filion Street.

At the bottom of our driveway there is a Neighborhood Watch sign on a sidewalk pole. You know the one, with the little thief-looking caricature. Strangers on the street are to receive warning from this sign—but there’s no more Sheriff to enforce the watch.

And no more notes left on anyone’s cars either.

10 responses to “Neighborhood Watch”

  1. What an incredible nuisance! I take it you never confronted the Sheriff about her rudeness to your friends?

    We have been feeling angry and resentful towards our next-door neighbor who a couple of months ago (we surmise) called the town about peeling paint on the front of our house, with the upshot that we received a warning and had to repair the paint job under pain of getting a summons with a large fine. This weekend I found out the neighbor is in the hospital with a life-threatening inflammation of her lungs, and it made me feel bad about having wished her ill when we got that warning letter.

  2. Scotty says:

    LT, I am thrilled by your triumphant return to the whatsit.

    I love a good neighborhood whodunit. Some of my favorites:

    Meat the Neighbors: this one’s not such a mystery, but we have these neighbors who are part of a co-op, and they leave these giant crates of meat on their front lawn for people to come by and pick up. They swear it’s to feed pets.

    The Terror of (Gun)dry Ave: there’s this house that no-one’s lived in for as long as we’ve been here, but it’s the most well-kept house in the neighborhood. In the driveway is a real-life army tank.

    The Mystery of the Appearing Dog Poop: I know it’s the least interesting, but even though I’ve never-ever seen anyone not clean up after their dog, shit magically appears on my lawn from time to time. And I’m home at all hours. I watch person after person bag the shit, and I wonder (okay obsess over) who this psycho shit-leaver is.

    After re-reading my comment, I sound more like the Sheriff than the Tremain.

  3. Rogan says:

    Nice work LT. Your story is such a contrast to the neighborly relationship in South Central. Here, every other house has a loud barking dog. At night we have a sort of ‘ghetto radar,’ which allows us to aurally track anyone walking up the street by what dogs are barking. No one complains to the city, and I doubt the city would do anything if someone did.

    LA is such a funny city. Your Sheriff is a real American archetype. She made me thing of Act Two of somewhat recent episode of This American Life.

  4. rm says:

    i admire you for maintaining such a good attitude about the whole thing; i would have been more confrontational and tortured about such behavior (let alone that writing!). this reminds me of how vulnerable we are to the relatively arbitrary nature of having good or bad neighbors. i know friends who have literally moved from a nice place because a neighbor was such an issue while i’ve had others suffer for years because one nut pushed every kind of boundary. congrats on her leaving…(cue monster move music)…for now…

  5. Jeremy Zitter says:

    Scotty, I would add to your list your across-the-street neighbor, who doesn’t want anyone parking within a one-block radius of his house, who (while I was visiting you) once left a note on my car that said, “Leave at least four feet between my car and your car. The next time you jam me up, I’m going to ram your car with my truck!”

    Great to have a new post from you, LT!

  6. LT says:

    Wow. You guys have some seriously crazy neighbors.

    And, Rogan, I am hoping that whining about the Sheriff doesn’t sound too trite next to your crazy challenges in the Crack House Diaries. Can’t wait for the next installment.

  7. julietheppqueen says:

    i live on a hill with 4 bungalows in echo park. we are a family of sorts and have battled cornered bars and totalled cars from drunks, people having sex against our gate on my discovery and puke. lots of puke.
    but recently we have a new dilemma which has called for an emergency hilltop meeting to go down this saturday.
    on craiglist you can find an ad to live in a house for $75 a week shortterm if you are down and out and ready to get straight. everyweek there is a new ad… turnover seems to be rampant.
    an unregistered halfway house has moved in next door to us. there is no fence between our properties. now, these neighbors have been fine. their only crimes are after some repairs on one of the bungalows bathroom a toilet was left to salvage on the street below our houses. someone at the halfway house dragged the used toilet to their backyard and play b ball with it and it is sometimes used as a seat for their outdoor 12 step meetings which is in eyeshot of the past owner of said toilet and he is utterly grossed out daily making his morning coffee. a few have also walked over to comment on the past toilet owners guitar playing and one came over after chasing his dog who was chasing my cat and sat on our porch to catch a breath pulling out a beer while he told all of us about himself and his new sober lifestyle while slurping the foam that rose up the bottles neck. then came the hilltop murmurs. we all keep our houses fairly open (i sleep at night with my windows open) others became more militant with thoughts of that one bad egg that might poke around and see the opportunities to take from us.now the debate has split as some of us don’t want to start a war/judge (this is the eastside afterall). but regardless of the possibilities i am just happy the band moved out from next door. I’d rather hear the 12 step meetings secret tales of bad deads done blow thru the trees then the constant snare and drums of band that believes they are too cool for school.

  8. Rogan says:

    7. Hey Julie. You don’t happen to live on the hill above the little Buddhist temple, do you? Because Susan and I visited a little home up there a couple of months ago, and were totally enchanted. Unfortunately it was still a bit out of our price range. Oh, that, and I don’t like the idea of parking my motorcycle out on a busy street with all of the puke.

    Those hill houses are quite the trip. No gym membership needed, if you live high enough up the steps. And I wouldn’t worry about the toilet. It is rasquache!

  9. julietheppqueen says:

    yes i do live on that hill but a little lower though in the trees. it is enchanting. i love that word rasquache. how have i never heard that one? it is nice living here but there are some mean coyotes roaming this street and squatting a few houses up where they made their den. the city hasn’t been much help so the lady told me there is a guy called Coyote Bob and he’ll remove the coyotes for $200-300 each.I gotta see this guy.

  10. Mattdalton says:

    I love it: espionage, the word “syntactical” a female neighborhood watch sheriff named Brittney, AND best of all delusional power issues being implemented with cut-and-paste official logos. I’m certain that the screen version for Brittney ends in a completely different way. I’d miss her too, you should find out where she’s gone to, and send her a ‘note’ about something.