General Question

Aethelwine's avatar

I believe we are being targeted by a homeless woman on our street and now our new car has been vandalized. What recourse, if any, do we have?

Asked by Aethelwine (42945points) January 10th, 2019

I’ll try to make this as short as possible but some history might be needed. I’m a terrible story teller, but I’ll do my best.

There’s a laundromat on our block that I use that’s only 3 doors down from our home. The owner of the laundromat has had a problem with a large group of homeless that hang out there all the time. He finally reached out to the cops.

I happened to be there one night recently when there were 10–12 homeless there drinking beer. I walked in to grab my clothes from the wash to put into the dryer and a police officer drove up. One of the homeless men told everyone inside to hide their cans. When I opened my washer there was an empty beer can, plastic six ring and paper bag in with my wash. I was livid. I cussed them out. When I left I told the officer they put trash in with my wash. A couple of the homeless saw me talking to the officer. The officer told me they’d go in and issue citations for loitering if they weren’t washing clothes.

Then again two days ago one of the homeless women who happened to be sitting right next to my washer the first time was in the laundromat alone. I was the only person in there besides her. I put my clothes in the wash. When I came back to put the clothes in the dryer the washer door was open. I had to restart my wash. There’s no reason for the door to be open unless someone opened it.

This morning I noticed our brand new car that we purchased only a month ago had been keyed. This woman knows where I live. She walks by daily. My husband is so upset. He’s busting his ass 60 hours a week to pay for us to live in the city and finally have a nice car. We’re almost 50 and this is the first reliable vehicle we’ve ever owned.

What do we do? We’re afraid to wake up and find more vandalism. I’m uncomfortable going to this laundromat that’s most convenient for us. This woman has nothing to lose. We doubt the police can do anything.

Suggestions? We’re stuck in this lease until the end of June.

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50 Answers

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

I would check if any of it was caught on video. From the laundromat or elsewhere, (or they can install video cameras for preventing later crimes.) Maybe a social worker can help get the homeless a job or disability so that they would get off the street and eventually pay you damages later.

Aethelwine's avatar

They do have surveillance cameras inside. I don’t think that would help with the car situation though. Maybe I could contact the owner of the laundromat.

AshlynM's avatar

You may have to find a new laundromat, even though it might be inconvenient. I agree, the police won’t be able to do anything unless they catch this person in the act. You don’t have many options short of moving.

Aethelwine's avatar

@AshlynM Very true. I’m tempted to look to see if anything is available nearby and maybe we can get out of the lease if I explain what’s going on. We’d like to find something with underground parking. That’s popular here in the city. We park on the street right now with a parking permit so we don’t have to move the car every 2 hours.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@Aethelwine Sorry for your car being keyed. There might be no solution for now. Maybe you can recommend to the local chamber of commerce to install more cameras , or get the homeless off the streets and employed, or put on disability or social housing . Homeless don’t have much to be sued for, until they get a job and off the street.

Aethelwine's avatar

@RedDeerGuy1 Exactly. She has nothing to lose. We just want our stuff to be left alone. I’ve always been kind to this group since we moved here so it’s frustrating to be treated this way.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@Aethelwine I would recommend asking the community leaders ( church, outreach and chamber of commerce and the local media) for help. You should not be expected to solve the problem alone. I would ask for back up. Their seems to be a need that someone could fill.

Aethelwine's avatar

Is a police report needed for the vandalism?

Here’s the damage: https://imgur.com/a/XwoYrTr

Unofficial_Member's avatar

What I don’t understand is why can’t you have your own laundry machine inside your house. It’s more convenient to do it at home and there’s no need to risk going outside and meet potentially dangerous people.

If this person proves to be persistent then you can set a recording camera and catch her in the action. Give the recording to the police so they can legally apprehend her. It’s also possible that she’s not the one who damaged the car.

Aethelwine's avatar

@Unofficial_Member We are renting an apartment that is set to be demolished in July. It’s a 100 year old home. Maybe flat would be a better term? There are no connections or room for laundry. We have the first floor and two university students rent the second floor.

“It’s also possible that she’s not the one who damaged the car.” True but we never had a problem until she messed with our laundry. We don’t have teens roaming our streets. We have hipsters, students and homeless. It’s easy to assume it was her. We don’t expect punishment. We just want this to stop. It looks like moving is our only option.

Unofficial_Member's avatar

^^ I see. I’m sure the police will solve this problem eventually. For the time being, a little trip to another block or other place to do laundry should be a necessary burden if you feel your life is constantly threaten by these people. If they’re just hanging around and not stealing your stuff then you can easily ignore them and keep on doing your laundry as usual.

Aethelwine's avatar

@Unofficial_Member They aren’t stealing but they are vandalizing. It looks like our best option is doing laundry elsewhere until we move. It’s a shame.

JLeslie's avatar

After reading this, I don’t think I would fix my car yet if I were you, but I would get an estimate to help me decide. I read your other Q on this topic first, so I’m catching up.

If there is another laundromat I would definitely go there instead. You could get a portable washing machine for your apartment, I don’t know what the capacity is like on them. Plus, you would need a dryer, I don’t know much about portable dryers. They probably aren’t terribly expensive, but you only need it until you move so I don’t know how worth it it is.

KNOWITALL's avatar

So you had trash in your laundry, why are you leaving it unattended? Pay for bundle service. If someone is messing with your car, pay for secure parking.

Listen they think you are a snitch now, you made a bad decision by complaining and talking to police. Bad move. You are now a target.

Inspired_2write's avatar

You had every right to inform the cops and to blame you for THEIR behavior choices is not helping and it is wrong to do so. By harassing you that group is trying to get you to submit to their rules of which you do not need too as you are in the right.
Has your Insurance company been informed and what do they advise?
Can you get out of your lease as it is not a safe environment to be renting in?
Check the lease agreement and landlord tenants act in this regard,as perhaps they may offer better solutions?
Talk with the owner of that laundromat and get the community involved in cleaning up the streets of groups such as those.

Dutchess_III's avatar

If you think there is a possibility that it will happen again you need to get a security camera. That’s the only way anyone can be held accountable.
But I have a feeling that harder you push back the worse it’s going to get.

Inspired_2write's avatar

@Dutchess_III This is how a group mentality works by harassing until the victim succumbs.
She needs bigger guns by way of powerful people who can make a difference,media,council,bylaw,community leaders,street watch,etc
If they are going to push then she can get the whole community involved to say that they have had enough.

Inspired_2write's avatar

Just had another solution for you…place a security device that sounds an loud alarm when anyone touches it.( Also have camera filming when alarm comes on and lights go on too).
Here is an example: it alerts your moblie device as well.
Amazon.com : Dreamtop Touch Sensitive Anti-Theft Alarm Wireless…
https://www.amazon.com/Dreamtop-Sensitive-Anti-Theft-Wireless.../B01J5I6HOK

Aethelwine's avatar

@knowitall Nice victim blaming.

@inspired2write Thank you very much for the help!

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
Response moderated
Inspired_2write's avatar

@Aethelwine
Do the new developers know of this problem in that neighborhood…if not tell them and get back up now to offset future problems. That area needs to be safe from groups like that.
The new developer may assist as well as the laundromat owner in a community meeting.
Let people know that this behavior is unacceptable in civil society.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I don’t think she’s in a new development.

Inspired_2write's avatar

@Dutchess_III
I meant when in six months the new developer will build on that site as she stated in her comments here:

@Unofficial_Member We are renting an apartment that is set to be demolished in July. It’s a 100 year old home. Maybe flat would be a better term? There are no connections or room for laundry. We have the first floor and two university students rent the second floor.

janbb's avatar

Is there any possibility of finding an off-street place to park your car? And I would go to a different laundromat.

JLeslie's avatar

I googled and it looks like felony theft is $2,500 or higher, so I assume that means for the vandalism to be a felony it has to be damage above that amount also (I’m guessing, I don’t know exactly how the law works) so even if they were convicted on keying your car it looks like it’s a misdemeanor, so probably nothing happens to them. Plus, I think you said it would be hard to prove.

This sucks for you. Unless the cops are going to come daily to get rid of these people you have basically no power unless you get all thug on them, which I don’t recommend.

If you want to retaliate, I’d say have patience, disappear from their sight for a month or two, and then call the cops on them if you are still worked up about it, but you can’t make random calls to the police obviously. Somehow you would need to have eyes on the area without these derelicts knowing.

Or, call the owner of the laundry anonomously and tell him he’s losing business because of them. He can have the cops come and remove them. I feel bad for the owner also.

Aethelwine's avatar

@janbb Good suggestions. There’s no parking close enough for us to use besides the street.

@JLeslie Jon is getting to know the owner from spending time in the next door bar. He owns both businesses. Jon learned about the owner being fed up with this group before any of this happened to us. He’s received several complaints and it’s hurting his business so he got the police involved. They’ve been randomly patrolling the area. That’s why they were there the first night I was being messed with. I’m only curious about involving police if a report is needed for repair. I don’t want retaliation. We just want to feel safe and not have our things messed with.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

Sorry if this has been suggested already but I would use another laundromat and invest in a security camera that points at your car. I also personally wouldn’t leave my wash alone at the laundromat regardless of location but I just don’t trust people. You can’t prove who keyed your car so you’re going to be stuck with that bill. I went through the same thing when our new car was keyed. If you have full coverage you’ll just need to pay the deductible and get it fixed. If you’re lucky, maybe you can fix it for cheaper than your deductible would cost without making an insurance claim at all.

Aethelwine's avatar

Thanks for the suggestions everyone. It’s been a busy day so I apologize if I didn’t get to everyone here.

About leaving the laundry unattended. I understand it’s not ideal but it’s literally just a 20 second walk from our home. The homeless people take up all the seating, which is very limited, so there is often nowhere to sit.

I was curious about current rentals in the area and took a look at craigslist . I found many possible options for us. One was perfect for us! It was a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house with laundry and a driveway. Almost 2000 sq. ft, just a few blocks away and the rent was about the same as what we pay now. Do you think we can get out of our current lease if I explain that we don’t feel safe and our car has been vandalized? Our lease was originally due to expire the 11th of February but demolition was pushed back so we had the option to renew until July. We just renewed last month. :(

janbb's avatar

I would talk to the landlord and see what they say.

JLeslie's avatar

You can ask the landlord, but from a legal standpoint I don’t think you can break the lease. Maybe they’ll be understanding though. We had signed a year lease to store our cars and then my husband got laid off and the owner returned our deposit and let us break the lease. We were really grateful.

Aethelwine's avatar

I’m torn. Do I get a showing of the house and see how it goes, then contact our current landlord or the other way around. If I talk to the landlord and they know we want to leave they may put the listing on craigslist and start showing it before we’re ready. I have a lot to think about this weekend. Thanks!

janbb's avatar

I would look at the other place and decide you want it – but make no commitment – before talking tothe landlord. One thing to consider is the cost of utilities in a bigger place.

Inspired_2write's avatar

Maybe take a walk in that new neighborhood , just in case same problems or same people harassing?
Make sure that you are not changing one problem for another in a new area.Talk to neighbors in new area etc Also maybe the new landlord may have some advice for you in regards of getting out of the lease on your present apartment?

Aethelwine's avatar

@janbb Very good point about utilities. Sometimes I get too excited and get ahead of myself. We have much to consider.

@Inspired_2write It’s just ½ mile from here but the street looks more residential than where we are now and it doesn’t have a bar on the same street. I will take a walk to check it out. Thanks for the suggestions.

Aethelwine's avatar

I took a chance and I’m here in the laundromat. There were at least 8 homeless in here including the woman who has messed with my clothes. I’m standing next to the washer with my back to them. One woman I had never seen who is with them walked by and noticed I looked sad. She asked if I was okay. I told her I wasn’t. I told her I don’t feel safe here. That someone had messed with my clothes and keyed my car. I mentioned my son is dealing with suicidal ideation.

She was so kind. She hugged me and asked if she could help by saying something to the others. I told her I just want to be left alone. We chatted for a bit and she hugged me again. She went to the group and mentioned I was crying. I didn’t hear what else she said. They all left a few minutes later.

JLeslie's avatar

^^Maybe they will have some compassion. At least she did, so that’s nice.

Aethelwine's avatar

Sometimes you just need to be real and honest. Everyone suffers in some way. I could have smiled and said I was fine but I’m not.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

If the new house is that close, I would be concerned about the same issues so definitely be diligent in checking out the surroundings first. Also don’t be shocked if the landlord doesn’t allow you to break the lease. It’s put in place for a reason.

I’m sorry these unfortunate things have happened to you but I’m glad someone showed you compassion. Maybe you could show the others some as well? Just a suggestion. Maybe they look at you and think you’re acting like a privileged person with a home and car. Maybe you’re thinking of them as scary looking homeless people who are out to wreck your hard earned things. This could all be a misunderstanding.

People judge so quickly and tend to forget we’re all still human. There are always bad seeds but it might be worth it to try a different approach next time. Turning your back and acting standoffish might come off the wrong way.

Aethelwine's avatar

There’s been a heavy police presence today. Cars driving by several times the past two hours. I just left to walk to the store and I noticed 3 police cars stopped at the laundromat and it looked like they were escorting one or two of the homeless away. As I said above, the owner is fed up with their presence. They drink alcohol in there and I’ve witnessed two woman coming out of the bathroom who were doing heroin. I overhead the others talking about what they were doing in there. I’ve been in there when they’ve been arguing. One was holding a baby while she was yelling at a man. The poor baby was crying the entire time. The police are trying to do something about the problem. This has been going on long before I ever had a problem with them.

Aethelwine's avatar

I had a very odd email exchange with the supposed owner of the new house rental we were interested in. I believe it was a scam. Too many red flags and the posting has been removed. We’re going to stay put for now. Here’s the exchange:

“Thanks for your interest in my Property and I apologize for the late response. My name is Eng. Chris Burchard , I am the owner of the property at (redacted)
3 beds 2 baths 1,994 sqft ,I received your message and I appreciate the response to my Ad on the rental website. We have owned the property for 8years now without any problem or complain from the neighborhood. We had great experience living in the property and we can assure that to any of our tenants that will be living in it now. We are ready to answer any question regarding our property in-case you have any question for us.
We are patiently waiting to rent the property to someone that will continue taking good care of it like they owned it. We chose to rent the property out because we no longer live in the area. We recently moved to California from Wisconsin due to our job and also we are paying for a new property already but you can rest assure that we can provide you with necessary information and documents.”

I then asked for a showing and asked about utilities. HIs next response:

“Well i want you to understand this and pls don’t be negative, I’m just talking base on experience here, like i said I’m in California and a lot of people are asking for this. I came to Madison last two weeks to show people , even my wife came last week either but it appears people aren’t serious or not ready yet and we can’t keep wasting our time and money. This is my property and i will only give a serious person who’s ready to pay and move in. Thanks for contacting us and checking our property out.”

I asked for a showing again saying we were very interested and asked about utilities again. I never heard back. Scam, right? They also had a number to text on craigslist and it was a Chicago area code.

JLeslie's avatar

That’s good that the police are helping.

I hope the homeless people have some sort of shelter to go to.

Aethelwine's avatar

@JLeslie The people in this group have a man who drives them around in a large truck with a topper. I think they might sleep in this truck. There are two other vehicles on our street that they sleep in. From what I’ve overheard during my time in the laundromat there are no beds available for them elsewhere.

JLeslie's avatar

^^That’s a shame. I would have hoped Madison (you’re in Madison right?) would have shelter for them.

Aethelwine's avatar

Yes. There is a very large homeless population here. They have new housing for them but police calls are rampant. https://madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/city-nonprofit-address-jump-in-police-calls-at-housing-for/article_a9e421b1-c8e7-54a6-91a8-d633cef34060.html

The city really does their best to help them but they only have so many resources.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@Aethelwine SCAM. Yes. Absolutely. It happened to us several times while hunting for rentals. It’s very common now. A tell tale sign is when the landlord claims to be out of town so they’re unable to show the property but want your funds to rent it out. They’ll also tell you to feel free to look around the premises or check in the windows if you want. They’ll usually pick a house that is vacant so it appears to be a legitimate rental but it’s not. If you feel something isn’t right, it’s usually not. Any landlord not willing to show you a property before renting it out isn’t legitimate.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Aethelwine, well, English is most definitely not his first language, but he hasn’t asked for money, has he? If not, then I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if you can call it a scam if there is no profit in it for him.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@Dutchess_III Usually they ask for the deposit after you say you’ll take the apartment. If they aren’t asking for money, they’ll instead have you fill out an “application” that includes your social security number. They’ll also never speak on the phone. So if any of these things happen, scam. I once found a house for rent online and this happened to me. It seemed fishy so I googled the address and it was actually for sale, not rent. A scammer knew it was vacant though so they took the opportunity to try and steal social security numbers or down payments. Happens all the time.

Dutchess_III's avatar

This world sucks sometimes. Sometimes it really doesn’t.

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