Friday, September 04, 2009

Will it be Rotten Eggs or TP this Halloween?

I'm sure we're in for one or the other this year. It's a working class neighborhood with lots of commuting families and non-driving, latchkey teenagers who like very much to sneak out at night and prowl the streets. We're pretty unique in that Mr. Stang is at home all the time and I only work 5 minutes away, so we're often the only parental types around during the days and awake late at night. Having both been latchkey kids ourselves we kind of feel responsible for keeping an eye on the younglings in the "hood".
I Guess that makes us the grouchy neighbors who like to spoil the fun. We've got the streetlight and the sidewalk on our side of the street and we're often out front watching MickeyD or at the park anyway, so we're in a good position to do so.

It started out innocently enough - 2 years ago the county built a new neighborhood park. Mr. Stang chewed out some 11 yr olds who were carving up the newly grass-seeded slope with mountain bikes. Then it was a couple more who were trying to climb up/pull down the newly planted tree saplings. Those we weren't so concerned about - just stupid kids not really aware that what they were doing was destructive.

Then some kids with rather more delinquent tendencies got into the act. Our unlocked car was rifled through and a diaper bag (of all things) stolen from the back seat. Our mailbox was blown up with fireworks. A year later the bomb squad was called in to defuse a suspicious device in the mailbox two doors down. That's when I started hanging out on the front stoop most evenings with our black Lab, Jinx. I almost caught the toads the next time they tried to blow up the next door neighbor's mailbox. Meanwhile there were a couple of home invasions/burglaries in the area. Only thing stolen? A Guitar Hero game, Wii console and other electronics. But at the beginning of this summer a couple of locked cars were broken into at the end of the block. So things are escalating.

In the meantime, I had words a couple of times with some of the older boys at the park who were being especially vulgar trash-talking each other loudly on the basketball court. I'm pretty potty-mouthed myself but check it in public when there are little ones around. Where I really draw the line is on the pussy-putdowns - especially when there are young girls sitting right there (whom they were trying to impress.. I kid you not). Once I called the cops on a group of kids chasing each other after dark with very lifelike toy guns. Probably ridiculous, but there'd been a rash of graffiti in the neighborhood and increased gang activity. Not 911 - just the sherriff's line to ask for someone to cruise by.

This summer MickeyD's became Hell on Two Wheels, so I bought this little guy to put in front of our sidewalk. In doing so I knew he'd be a huge target for vandals.  But then, I figured maybe he'd take some of the heat off the mailboxes. And I was right. So far this summer Sammy the Safety Kid has had his flag stolen and gets knocked down almost every night. But the mailboxes are intact.

The night before last around 2 a.m. Mr. Stang had enough when he was awakened by kids outside and the tell-tale "thunk" of plastic hitting pavement. He jumped in the minivan and started patrolling the 'hood. Found one kid wandering alone, yelled at him to get home and was following him to make sure he did. The slightly freaked out kid was all "Dude, what are you doing?? Umm.... Stranger danger?".   Mr. Stang replied "well I can call the cops to escort you home if you'd prefer". But then peeled off to harass another group of kids down the block.

This morning, Sammy was relocated two doors down. I won't be surprised if one of these days he just disappears altogether and we start getting postcards of him from exotic locations. At this point, I think we're going to have to get involved with the Neighborhood Watch - or start one. Mr. Stang called the sheriff, and apparently there's no curfew for our unincorporated area of the county. And get a webcam. Definitely need to set up a Sammycam.

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