Living in the Crosshairs: Crackpot Neighbors, False Reports, and Restraining Order Abuse

Posted on November 15, 2014

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I bonded with a client recently while wrestling a tough job to conclusion. I’ll call him “Joe.” Joe and I were talking in his backyard, and he confided to me that his next-door neighbor was “crazy.” She’d reported him to the police “about a 100 times,” he said, including for listening to music after dark on his porch.

His neighbor had never been punished for her mischief, only indulged and rewarded. This is behavior the police and court have been conditioned to treat as urgent. The woman’s husband refused to participate in her sniping—but didn’t interfere with it, either. He had to live with her. Others in the vicinity just tried to stay off her radar.

The neighboring house was dim and still as Joe related the woman’s pranks, which spanned a period of years. “She’s probably listening to us now,” he remarked.

I commiserated but didn’t share with Joe that I wrote about such things and heard about them monthly from people whose lives were sometimes crippled by hyped allegations of fear and danger.

Joe told me, unsurprisingly, that his neighbor had twice sworn out restraining orders against him. The first was laughed out of court on appeal; the second he didn’t bother to contest. He gestured as if to say, “What would’ve been the point?” Maybe Joe intuited that high-conflict people like his neighbor live for strife and attention, and decided to deny her the satisfaction of a fight.

(Many respondents to this blog report they’ve had multiple false restraining orders petitioned against them. One e-petition respondent recently reported being the recipient of seven fraudulent restraining orders obtained by a “diagnosed narcissist.”)

Joe informed me, with a hint of sarcasm, that his neighbor was a professional psychic. Surveillance cameras nevertheless hung from the corners of her home’s roofline. I guess she couldn’t see everything coming.

(Among people who report being stalked or serially accused by neighbors through the courts, the presence of security cameras is commonly mentioned. The neighbors also tend to be of middle or advanced age and female—as are their victims, sometimes. One 60-year-old woman, chronically accused by a female neighbor, has reported having to abandon her house and flee to forestall further allegations. Men who are spies, peepers, and cranks are more likely to be the recipients of restraining orders than the petitioners of them: women accuse sooner than men do—and they do it more effectively.)

Joe didn’t get too explicit, but he told me he’d been photographed fooling around with his wife in the hot tub, which he’d since removed. In Arizona, at least, it’s apparently legal to monitor your neighbor over a bordering fence.

Joe said after he and his wife divorced, his neighbor told his ex-wife he was having an affair. He took in a male roommate. His neighbor photographed him, too—through the window adjacent to her backyard.

Joe shifted an arbor from one side of his patio to the other after getting approval (but no compensation) from the homeowners’ association. Two massive Tombstone rosebushes interwove to form a decent privacy screen.

I asked Joe whether he’d ever tried to get the woman off his back. He told me, unrepentant, that he’d once shot her with the garden hose while she was peeping. To this day, he says, she circulates it that he “assaulted her with a high-pressure hose.” He may have said this was the grounds for one of the restraining orders.

His neighbor has reported her other neighbors, too. The neighbor across the street knew of her particular “sensitivities” and informed her in advance that she was having a birthday party for her little girl at 2 in the afternoon on a weekend. The neighbor from hell reported it, anyway—on principle, I guess. The kids’ party was disrupted by cops.

Joe says his neighbor’s record is seven calls to the sheriff’s department in a single day (just on him). Deputies finally told her that if she called again, they’d cite her.

Joe works as a chef and didn’t appear to have any kids. With a few beers in him, he seemed to take the whole thing in stride.

I wonder if a feminist would be as tolerant.

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