What do you do when your neighbors are breaking the rules?
Last week, my husband and I spent close to two hours listening to a young couple on our street yelling at one another while standing on their driveway.
As a mother of two young children, I understand that sometimes life circumstances and events can lead to shouting, yelling and loud outbursts. However, at 10 p.m., I believe it is my neighbors’ responsibility to keep their rather loud and volatile discussion in their own home.
And as it turns out, we were not the only house on the block that heard them. A quick survey indicated that at least five other households were up and disturbed by the noise.
I am sensitive to the fact that this is an urban area where houses are close together and noise can carry. However, I do believe it is irresponsible, unneighborly and just downright rude to scream and shout on the street in the evening hours. I am also rather adamant that standing outside my house and shouting while my children are most definitely sleeping and I am trying to sleep crosses the line into neighborly misconduct.
I did some research in the Environmental Quality guide of Alexandria and found the chapter entitled "Noise Control." In Sec 11-5-4, it lists the following as one of the violations of the code:
(4) Noise in public places. The making by any person of unreasonably loud or unnecessary noise, including but not limited to that made by the human voice in public places, particularly between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. so as to annoy or disturb unreasonably the comfort, health, welfare, and environment, peace or safety of persons in any office, or in any dwelling, hotel or other type of residence, or of any person in the vicinity.
The police department has a non-emergency phone number for situations such as this. The number is 703-838-4444.
Here is where I run into a problem: I consider myself a nice neighbor. I don’t let my children outside to play before 9 a.m. unless it is a quiet activity that I am closely monitoring. I keep my yard tidy, my trash picked up and my lawn mowed. I do my part to make our street homey, friendly and safe.
The idea of calling the cops on my neighbors makes me feel, well, sneaky. However, these particular neighbors are not people I know well. We don't say much other than the occasional hello. I would not have felt comfortable walking outside in my pajamas and asking them to keep it down while they were engaged in what was very clearly an emotional and stressful argument.
One neighbor told me that she heard the argument when she was standing in her front yard after returning from an evening out. She actually started to feel concerned for her own safety and retreated quickly into her house.
What is the proper neighborhood protocol on complaining about noise, when the noise is coming from your neighbor? There must be a step before calling the police, but how can you communicate with a neighbor you don’t know in a responsible and non-threatening way?