Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Trouble next door

I need your advice, oh clever and wise bloggy friends.

I've blogged before about our troubles with the teenager next door. I don't think he is a particularly bad kid, but he is on the road to trouble. He lives with his mom, whom I like on a "chatting in the driveway" kind of way, and his younger brother and sister, who are sweet and well mannered but wild. The teen is surly, he smokes dope at all hours of the day without much attempt to be covert about it, he skips classes and he is rude to his mother. He can also be quite polite, even to me, when the mood strikes him. Like I said, I don't think he's so much bad as misguided.


Last night at about 1 am I woke up to loud voices in the driveway. I stumbled to the window just in time to see somebody coming up our walkway about six meters from the front door and without even thinking about it, I opened the window and yelled, "Hey! SCAT!" (Scary, eh? What can I say, I was still half asleep.) He turned on a dime and ran back to his house - I saw when he turned it was the teen next door - and I heard him thumping around inside, probably running up the stairs.

I was a little perplexed, and actually felt a little bad for yelling at him. I don't know whether he was up to mischief and maybe wanted to smash the three pumpkins still sitting on the porch, or whether he was in trouble and was coming to knock on the door (I've told the littler ones that if they ever need help and their mom isn't home, they can come and knock on my door), or something else. I yelled mostly because he and his friends have previously made a habit of sitting on the park bench on our front lawn and smoking or chatting rather loudly in the wee hours of the morning, and while I don't begrudge them the use of the bench, I'm less than tolerant of the butts on the lawn and being woken up by someone I didn't recently give birth to.

Less than a few minutes later, I again heard voices yelling in the driveway (this is through closed windows, mind you) and got up to look out the window just in time to see him stalking off toward the playground nestled in a small copse of trees across the street. I recognized his mother standing in the driveway calling after him, then rifling through her purse looking for something. She disappeared into the house and while I stood there in a sleepy stupor too tired to crawl back into bed, a police car came down the street with spotlight blazing, searching between the houses. As I watched, he scanned the park with his spotlight before parking in the driveway and going in to talk to my neighbour. For at least another 15 minutes, he and another squad car prowled the neighbourhood, shining their spotlight between houses and through the darkened park and schoolyard across the street.

I have no idea whether they found him, what they did with him when they did, or why they were looking for him. Mostly, I would really like to know what he was up to when I chased him away from my front door.

This isn't the first encounter with the police I've watched through drawn blinds. A month or so ago on a cold and rainy night, I was getting the kids ready for a bath when Beloved told me two squad cars were in the driveway next door. The teen was in the back of one of the cars and the officers were talking to my neighbour. I got the impression that she had called the police and not that he had been picked up somewhere. At one point, they pulled the kid out of the back of the squad car to pat him down, and he was handcuffed. The mom went back in the house, and the two squad cars - with the kid still in the back seat - pulled out of the driveway and onto the grass of the soccer field across the street to talk to each other in that driver's window to driver's window pose you often see cops and taxi drivers doing in parking lots.

All that to say, I'm getting a little worried.

I'd like to talk to my neighbour about this, to let her know I've seen the police visiting. She's a really nice lady who seems to be trying hard, but is maybe a little overwhelmed to find herself a single mother to three kids. I'd like to ask her what's up in a mother-to-mother sort of way, to offer a bit of camaraderie while at the same time make sure that he's not into something that might have some consequences for my family, for my precious baby boys.

What do you think? Should I talk to her? Do you think it's reasonable that I ask her what's going on? Last year when Tristan had his seizure and the fire rescue truck and ambulance showed up with lights blazing after I called 911, she asked me the next day if everything was okay, so there's a sort of a precedent. I was even thinking of calling the police station myself and asking about the nature of the call, but I'm guessing they won't divulge that sort of information.

It's not that I'm curious (okay, yes I am) or being nosy - I'm genuinely concerned that there's a risk (small but real) to my property and my family now. You don't call the police on your own kid just because you're having a bad night, and they showed up WAY too quickly after the kid disappeared (one minute, maybe two) for them to be responding to a call that she made after he stalked off, so I can't help but wonder if she called the police because I chased him away.

Any thoughts?