Profile picture for Heramb

Seller doesnt disclose drug dealing neighbor , what can we do?

We bought a home in Bay Area. CA last May. Police came  to our neighbors home last month and arrested a few people for possession of drugs and under the influence of drugs. According to my other neighbors this was not the first time they were arrested. There was nothing in the seller disclosure about these drug dealers next door. What can we do about it. The sellers are in east coast.
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May 03 2010 - US
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Answers (19)

Profile picture for Pasadenan
By the way, don't get the idea that illegal drugs are a "low income" to "moderate income" issue, nor that it is a "racial" issue.  These illegal drug sales would not be occurring if the middle, upper middle, and upper income neighborhood people were not buying and using these drugs.

Sure, the prisons are filled with low income people and people of selected races based on drug charges; but they don't have the lawyers and income to keep them out of the prisons as is often the case with the majority of the buyers.

As to real reasons why the police and local governments refuse to shut down these operations?

1) Sure, people with substantial income/resources/connections that help put others in office have some influence, but that is not the major reason.
2) Police slush funds...  all guns confiscated are destroyed, all drugs confiscated are destroyed and disposed of.  All "revenue" from illegal sales that is confiscated goes into un-designated "slush funds" that the police and local government can use for "special purposes" such as buying mobile police substations.
3) If you shut down the small time local gangs where you know the people, you will be inviting in "organized crime" to fill in the gap for the persistent buyers.  (I still say "send the buyers out of the city"; but the cities refuse).  Even shutting down one or two gangs could disrupt balance between the local gangs increasing turf disputes and homicides.
4) The special enforcement sections of police departments state they are in the business of collecting "intelligence" and preventing homicides; not enforcing the laws.
5) If the city/police remove the problems, the voters will believe they don't need as many resources, thus reducing their operating budgets.  So, to be able to request more money to spend, the cities and police find it necessary to maintain the problems to show a) they are doing something, and b) that they could do more if they had more resources.
(I still say, if you can't show you are effective with the resources you have, that you shouldn't be allocated more).
6) Fears over violating civil rights, and fears of potential law suits.  (A minor issue as law enforcement people are constantly violating selected people's rights, and there are very effective ways of enforcing laws without violating people's rights).
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May 10 2010
Profile picture for Pasadenan
There is no reason at all to log any "illegal activity"; that is to police department's job, and they say if they don't see illegal substance change hands, they can do nothing about it.  Sure, they can make arrests for possession of various substances above certain amounts, but they still need probable cause for searching, and dealers and users do not just expose the contents to the police freely.

Libel is a real issue, and thus you don't ever expect to see such issues reported on the disclosure statements.

The "logs" are for "safe streets" action, and is not necessarily "illegal" activity, but activities that disturbs your peace and enjoyment of your home.

Of course, if it is violation of a noise ordinance, you are expected to report it, otherwise nothing can be done about it...  And the police incidence reports can help collaborate your "log" for your complaint to the landlord.

Of course, as mentioned before, if the occupants are owners, and the problem is a teenager with gang friends, the solution is quite a bit different.

And with drugs in general, it is a "health" issue before it is a criminal issue; and those that are addicted need health, behavior, and addition help.  Don't just give up on these people because they are having problems.
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May 08 2010
Profile picture for Netizen
Pasadenan, that is what I thought! The record-keeping requirements for a busy professional who is away a lot (or even absentee homeowner) to document neighbor activity, and evaluate whether illegal activity is occurring, would be most burdensome. Thankfully disclosure laws do not extend to warning buyers of neighbor suspected issues (like drug dealing). It would just be my luck word would get back to these neighbors, and they would sue me for slander, libel, whatever! One is "innocent until proven guilty" so can the court of public (neighbor) opinion on "suspected" activity not tried in a court, or ignorance of a court trial that convicted a neighbor, result in liability? I hope not for all our sakes because it cuts both ways: buyers will eventually become sellers.
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May 07 2010
Profile picture for Netizen

I understand your dilemma, but placing myself in the shoes of the seller, and I suspect many will judge me by admitting this, but I don't pay much attention to the neighbors. I know people who keep studious notes on neighbors, and perhaps it's so they can disclose everything to a buyer in the future? My life is so busy, I can't be bothered, so if (God forbid) there is a problem with the neighbors and I sell the house, and the buyer discovers the neighbors are engaged in illegal conduct, they could make the case I failed to "disclose" the problem. Those neighbors that watch the comings and goings of the neighbors might claim they cannot imagine how I could have missed this conduct! For example, I have neighbors that make a point of investigating police visits to find out specifically if the call was due to a domestic disturbance, break-in, illegal activity, or an accident where the homeowner required assistance. These neighbors, when hearing the police in the middle of the night, are out watching what transpires. I'm a sound sleeper, and I sleep through anything (even earthquakes) so I cannot monitor a police incident with the neighbor at 3:00 AM like the neighbors apparently does. I'm sure that the future buyer of my house, if it turns out a "problem" has occurred with neighbors, might feel that I deliberately failed to disclose these problems. If I tried to explain what I just said, they may feel I'm making up an excuse. That is why I'll be interested to see from other replies if I'm required to "monitor" my neighbors and keep a log, in case future disclosure issues surface if I ever sell the house.

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May 07 2010
Profile picture for Pasadenan
Another factor regarding crime statistics...  the more dense an area is (housing and population), and the lower the median income is for the area, the more likely there are to be various crime problems; but usually not substantial house burglaries as thieves find it more productive to break into homes in neighborhoods with higher income.  Still, if someone that has no income needs cash for their "fix", they will go for the easiest closest target.

The U.S. Census Website Census.gov (look up)  allows access to median income data by block group, and to population and housing numbers (by block); though you do have to calculate density yourself knowing the physical sqft of the blocks.
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May 07 2010
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May 07 2010
Profile picture for Pasadenan
By the way, if you do start a "Safe Streets Now" program, you need to make sure you agree on what property you are concerned about, and that you create a telephone tree system to have EVERYONE call the police if illegal activity is observed.  Multiple requests raise the priority for service.  And you need to have the police reports to back up your logs, as "evidence" for your small claims law suits.

And by the way, most Safe Streets Now programs are not connected at all with the Police Department.  You may have support from another city department, or possibly even the city attorneys office, but if Safe Streets Now is new to your area, you may be on your own for the first one or several in the city.
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May 07 2010
Profile picture for Pasadenan
Crime statistics are meaningless for evaluating neighborhoods.  Those areas that have more active neighbors get more police support.  Those areas where people call the police get police reports and "incidence" reports.  Those areas where there is rampant problems the neighbors are too busy to call or too afraid to call, and even if they do, the police never come, and thus no reports are generated.

If you want to know what an area is like, don't depend on the police nor Realtors; visit the area yourself.

If you know what to look for, you will see it.  If you don't know what to look for, you won't see it.

And by the way, neighborhood watch programs where there are drug sales issues is counter productive.  The sellers send representatives, and it creates suspicion of neighbors rather than building bridges.
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May 07 2010
Always a good idea to recommend buyers speak with neighbors and with local police before making a home purchase.  If the police department has a "neighborhood watch" or safe streets officer, they are usually willing to share crime statistics for a particular area. 
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May 07 2010
Profile picture for Pasadenan
I see the original poster responded while I was posting.

Thanks for the response.  I'm glad you are going to Pursue Safe Streets Now.  It is one of the most effective methods of dealing with these kinds of problems that I've ever seen.

We are fortunate in our city to have a neighborhood connections department with staff trained in the Safe Streets program that does the orientations and all the contacts with the problem landlords.

It is a bit trickier when the problem occupants are the owners.  Not impossible; but you really then need to use additional approaches and additional partnerships between city departments.
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May 07 2010
Profile picture for Pasadenan
I'm surprised that the original poster has not come back with further comment or question.

But since this thread has had almost 200 views, perhaps some are wondering about the "other" indicators, since I stated about 15, and only posted 11; So, I'll post a few more:

12) Illegal gambling on the sidewalk, causing children walking home from school to have to walk out into the street to walk around.  (Even if it is not "gambling", but just "cards" or "dice", why would it be on the public sidewalk?)

13) Not through traffic street, with excessive traffic, especially if long line of cars during rain...  the dealers are better at "car service" than a typical drive through dairy, but it is more obvious during heavy rain when you wouldn't expect such "lines" and people coming out to greet the drivers.

14) Threats and insults to casual passer by's, and to neighbors.  This is done to discourage "observation" by those that are not buyers/sellers, and those that might report them.  Similarly, questions about what you are doing there.

15) If you know your local "gang colors"; you may find some wearing the "gang color" underwear (boxers), that will lift their shirt, or lower their pants to "flash" the colors as "advertisement".  (Most gang income is illegal drug sales, but there are some other activities as well; and most of the sellers have connections to gangs as they otherwise would not have a "source" for their "products".  It may be somewhat different for Meth as many seniors produce that in their apartments for extra income).

16) Extra prostitution in the area once a month (when the dealers get paid).  You may see various signs of extra prostitution, such as used condoms in the street gutter.

17) Loud booming music.  (Means nothing by itself, but possible gang ties if in conjunction with other indicators).

A few other signs one may look for may include how the "exchange" is taking place.  In most cases, it is a car stops, someone greets the vehicle occupants, goes back to the porch or house, comes back to the vehicle, the vehicle drives off, and the person returns to the porch.  The goods being sold can be inside the house, in a car, in a flower bed, in a flower pot, under a rock...

Another format, is when the car stops, the occupants go to the porch, then the go back to the car (or a different car), with an additional person, they drive around the block, the exchange is made out of sight, and when the vehicle comes back, the person that lives in the neighborhood gets out by themself.

Another format is the car will stop behind an existing car on the street.  The vehicles will be "checked" as if a problem with the vehicle.  The trunk is often opened.  Sometimes a car jack or similar is pulled out.  Often the drugs are stored up under a wheel well, or in the spare tire, or under the spare tire, or in the car jack...  A slight variation of this is opening the hood as if a dead battery that needs to be jumped.

For "street" exchanges where there are no vehicles, the drugs are often stashed in the under ware where police officers are unlikely to search.
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May 06 2010
Profile picture for Heramb
Thanks Pasadenan for all the tips and suggestions. It was very informative. The Safe streets program seems to be the best option right now. Our neighbor's son returned from jail a couple of months ago and started doing drugs again. The police arrested him last week. So all is well right now!
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May 06 2010
Profile picture for Pasadenan
"the seller disclosure included a section on "problems with the neighbor." If that is still there, the sellers were not honest with you" -

If that is there I haven't seen it.  But even if it is, a person doesn't necessarily have problems with a neighbor just because the neighbor is doing something illegal.  If one is at work while the majority of the activity is occurring, one can be completely oblivious.  If there are a few loud late night parties, it could just be assumed to be a special occasion, unless one was noticing it more than once a week.  If neighbors have friends over everyday that hang out on the porch because they can't find a job, that certainly isn't a "problem" that the neighbor "has" with them.

And even knocking on doors won't necessarily tell one much.  If you are knocking on a drug dealer's door, what do you expect them to tell you?  And if the party is away at work, will they answer at all?  And if they are frustrated with Jehovah's witness that frequently come by, do you even expect them to let you know they are home?  And most people like where they live, unless the illegal activity is across from them or next to them.  And with the way "retaliation" works in active gang areas, do you really expect someone that is concerned about the illegal activity to tell a complete stranger?
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May 06 2010
When I was licensed as an agent in California, the seller disclosure included a section on "problems with the neighbor." If that is still there, the sellers were not honest with you and you should check with an attorney to see if you have any recourse.

Pasadenan's advice is good. It is vital to look at the neighborhood as well as the house when you are home-searching.

I usually advise my clients to go back to the neighborhood of the home they are thinking of buying, and knock on the neighbor's doors. Ask them how they like the area- they will tell you! But it also gives you a chance to see if you'd like to be their neighbor. Clients who follow this advice invariably find it helpful.
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May 06 2010
Profile picture for Pasadenan
Thanks!  Hadn't seen it.
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May 06 2010
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May 06 2010
Profile picture for Pasadenan
By the way, there is a list of about 15 items that are potential "indicators" of illegal drug activity at properties; someone should have clued you in while you were looking at properties; but don't ask a Realtor as they are clueless.

Also don't bother telling your elected city representatives about such "lists"; they will consider it "prejudice" and "profiling".

And it is not just one item on the list that makes it a possible drug sales location; it is a combination of many of the items.

For example:
1) Front yard is all dirt (not weeds).  That means that people are walking across it regularly making the soil too compacted for anything to grow.  Either that, or they are parking vehicles on the grass in front.

2) Front fence has a bent top rail; indicating people siting on the fence, or constantly jumping the fence.

3) Much drive through trash regularly in the street gutter.  That not only means the city is not cleaning, but there is substantial extra traffic, and that people don't care about the trash.

4) Two chairs in front yard or on porch facing the street.  If it was for games or conversation, they would be facing each other, or facing at 90 degrees to each other; but with both facing the street, they are watching the street traffic for customers.

5) Cars stopping frequently in the middle of the street.  Yes, they may be "friends", but too much of this too often indicates "buyers".

6) Vulgar language and dancing in the middle of the street at midnight.  This means they don't have normal jobs.

7) Tire skid marks in the middle of the street, indicating drag racing or doughnuts, or other show-off stunts.  Sure, it may just be teenagers showing off to their friends, but this type of unsafe illegal activity is usually more indicative of other problems.

8)  Sidewalk tagging and other graffiti.  If it is known gang tag marks, it is more serious than just people's names or initials.  Make sure you photograph all graffiti before removal, and have it removed promptly.  A tag crossed out means that a rival is planning an attack based on turf disputes.

9) Shoes hanging on power and telephone lines.  Yes, just a "prank"; but too much of that indicates the neighbors don't care, and it is a "seller" location indication.  You can modify a pruning cutter to be able to cut the shoe laces to remove such items, and tell the neighbors as you are doing it that you are removing the shoe-cams to replace the batteries.  After a while, they will start believing there actually are cameras watching the illegal activity in the middle of the street.

10) Multitudes of extra cars.  Sure, it could just be a large family with lots of teenagers; but drug dealers swap their cars out regularly, and those that don't snitch when under police custody are rewarded with replacement vehicles from those that have car dealer licenses and go to the auctions regularly to pick up extra vehicles.

11) Extra "dumped" trash, clothing, furniture... in the middle of the street or on park strips...   Often the "sellers" are collecting a little extra cash by letting people illegally dump for a small fee rather than having to pay land-fill charges and the extra transportation charges to the landfill.  This also serves as an "advertisement" for "customers".  It may be across the street, or around the corner from the actual sales location.

etc.
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May 03 2010
Profile picture for Pasadenan
The other thing to do is to become "friends" with your neighbors.  You don't have to say anything about their drug problems nor your knowledge of their activities.  If they consider you a "friend", they will watch out for your property, and will not cause problems for you nor your property.  (Except the noise and all the extra traffic, reckless driving, and the drive-through trash thrown in the street and yards).
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May 03 2010
Profile picture for Pasadenan
I don't think you can do anything regarding the sellers.  I don't believe there is anything in the disclosure laws regarding "suspected" illegal activity of neighbors.  And if the police really had evidence that the illegal activity was occurring there regularly, it is the police's responsibility, not the neighbors.

But, you can look up "safe streets now", and start a "safe streets" program with your neighbors.  You document the inconveniences and annoyances, (and especially "feelings") and then you each sue the landlord in small claims court.

It does take time, but it seems to be the best solution.

If the problem has been there for a while, it likely is not the only house in the area that has the problems.

You can also use low cost video cameras (camcorders) for taping the street in the front of your house as part of your "security" system for your own property.  Use a VCR (with the camera plugged in) at the EP record mode, and you can get 6 hours of recording on a $1 tape.  If not home, you can use a few VCR's (often available for $25 now), with the same camera pugged into each with Y-adapters, and set the recorders to "auto record" with the appropriate delay time.  Then you can just change all 3 tapes at night, or all 3 tapes in the morning.  It works best to use 3 cameras for different views, so you may need as many as 9 VCR's.  Make sure the cameras are set to display the time and date.  The video can not be used directly as "evidence", but can be used as part of your "personal testimony".  And they help tremendously for "documentation" of your "experience".  They also help identify problem vehicles (which you can get license plate numbers for later when walking in your neighborhood), and "frequency" of buyer stops.

Make sure you place the cameras out of view in a protected area.  In attic spaces, and in windows behind curtains seem to work quite well.  You can use brackets or tripods as convenient for you.

Sure, you can get one of those fancier time-stop recorder systems with hard drives and cameras.  But initial cost is a consideration for many people.  When reviewing the tapes, I like to run 3 simultaneously on different monitors at 6 times speed; you get a real feel for "activity" that way; and when you see something that looks like a real issue, you can play that part at normal speed to hear the sound.
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May 03 2010
 
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