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Posted on Thu, Nov 22, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

Keep an eye on neighbors to assure neighborhood - and personal - safety

By Rich Kinsey

Every week I suggest that you “watch out for your neighbor.” The key to real estate may be “location, location, location,” but the keys to enjoying where you live are your neighbors. Good neighbor relations are very important.

Perhaps the most important rule in neighborhood relations is to be the neighbor a neighbor would want to have. Obey the law. Mow your lawn, shovel your walk when it snows, drive carefully through the neighborhood and be considerate.

Make an effort to know your neighbors. Some may want relationships and some may not. In a highly mobile population like Ann Arbor, your neighbors may last for only a school year or even a summer, but it is still nice to get to know them.

Even if you are on the bashful side you can still smile, wave and act pleasantly toward your neighbors. The Golden Rule to “treat others as you would want to be treated,” applies here.

If you are shy and uncomfortable interacting with neighbors, the least you can do is be aware and know who lives around you. Unless you live with the drapes constantly drawn and never leave your house, because “black helicopters” or aliens following you whenever you go out, you will be seeing and interacting with your neighbors. It helps them and it helps you to know who belongs in your building or neighborhood.

It may just be watching neighbor kids playing in the back yard while looking out your kitchen window or it could be sitting on the porch watching the world go by, but pay attention to who lives and belongs around your neighborhood.

Watch your neighbor’s property as if it were your own. If you see a stranger in their car or looking around their property, go grab the phone and keep watching.

If the stranger forces entry, goes in through a window or starts carrying things away from your neighbor’s property call 911. Get the police headed that way and get them to check it out.

If you have been able to watch the stranger around your neighbor’s home try to see how they got there. Did they walk up or drive? Are they alone or is someone waiting in a car for them? Be able to describe those things as well as what the stranger is wearing and what the stranger looks like. Stay on the telephone until the operator tells you to hang up. You can provide very valuable, real time information to officers responding and arriving on scene.

If you have a trusted neighbor, let them know when you will be out of town. Do not place your travel itinerary all over social media, but tell a trusted neighbor if you have one. If you trust them enough and have built a good neighbor relationship with them, perhaps they will even collect your mail and newspaper for you. Realize that you may be asked to do the same, for them, at a later date. Make sure while you are away, that the trusted neighbor has your cell phone number or contact information in case there is an emergency.

Be considerate of your neighbors. Noise complaints are the most common complaints made between neighbors. Remember Ann Arbor City Ordinance bars loud noise making devices like power equipment, stereos, musical instruments, televisions, as well as barking dogs and loud parties between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. (See the Michigan municipal code here:

If you are going to have a party in the evening, inviting your neighbors is a good first step to head-off noise complaints. If you enjoy listening to loud music late at night, it is best to invest in a good pair of earphones. Using earphones you can legally — but at the detriment to your hearing — blow your eardrums and your mind it you want without disturbing your neighbors. Caution should be exercised with earphones, if the music moves you. Remember should you decide to break into song, your voice will be louder than you realize and chances are you will be way off key and annoying to others.

That being said if you live in a multiple family dwelling like an apartment, townhouse or condominium be aware that you will hear your neighbors. Your neighbors will walk, run up steps, babies will cry and perhaps sometimes doors will slam. That is part of living in close proximity to other human beings — it is not normally a police problem.

However if you hear loud arguing, screaming or crying and think someone could be getting hurt, call 911 immediately — you may save a life. At the very least the police will check things out and quiet things down. If you actually see someone assaulted make sure you call the police immediately as well.

“Watch out for your neighbors” also has another meaning as some of you have figured out. If you think your neighbors are involved in illegal activities, keep an eye on them.

Strangers pulling up at all hours, parking, running up to the door and leaving in a short time can mean a neighbor is dealing drugs — unless the stranger's car has a pizza sign attached to the roof.

If you suspect your neighbor of dealing drugs or engaging in other illegal activities in your neighborhood, keep and eye on things, copy some license plates, document dates and times if you can and call the police.

Remember you live in the neighborhood and if you allow criminal activities near your home you are inviting criminals. Sooner or later those criminals or some of their associates will victimize you and potentially ruin your neighborhood.

If you feel intimidated or afraid of criminal neighbors, but still want the criminal activity to stop, call your local police department’s anonymous tip line or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK UP.

Lock it up, don’t leave it unattended, be aware and watch out for your neighbors.

Rich Kinsey is a retired Ann Arbor police detective sergeant who now blogs about crime and safety for



Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 3:26 p.m.

Stay vigilant!

Richard Douglass`

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 1:35 a.m.

I agree. But also there are some obvious things we can do for each other. 1. when unlimited and often unwanted newspapers in plastic bags are thrown carelessly (usually) onto a sidewalk, driveway, or into the lawn and left for days at a time, it is a way to invite unwanted investigation of the house....gee, it looks like nobody is home. Keeping such garbage picked up is important. If you don't police your own, then perhaps you deserve such unwanted advertisement. But if you care about your property, then be certain that somebody is going to pick up the weekly throw-aways that will cover lawn and driveway while you are gone. 2. Leaving a light on is just another way to let people know that you are gone. Especially the porch lights. Various cheap timers, in different rooms, that don't curiously stay on all night long is a better plan. 3. Let neighbors know that you'll be gone and when you are expected back. Tell them to park a car in your driveway once or twice to give pause to anybody who is looking your property over. 4. Tell deliveries to not deliver postal, UPS, FEDEX while you are gone. Criminal neighbors should know that you are not alone.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 10:21 a.m.

Great ideas. The other side of the coin -- pay attention to what your neighbors are doing as well. All of A2's and surrounding area's burglars have to live somewhere. If something looks suspicious--like your neighbor attempting to sell you a laptop or other electronic equipment or jewelry way too cheap. A neighbor's car, garage, or apartment is loaded with too much or an ever changing assortment of stuff? That could be a sign something is wrong. I think there is an attitude among many in southeast MI (situational ethics?) of not wanting to get involved or turning a blind eye. By not getting involved ... or worse yet buying some of the "too cheap" merchandise of mysterious origin --you act as an enabler.

Rick Stevens

Thu, Nov 22, 2012 : 3:45 p.m.

Good advice Rich. Our local police need our help; we can't 'delegate' everything to them and expect them to anticipate issues. We are their eyes and ears in our neighborhoods. I keep my digital camera handy and if something, some car or some person looks out of place or suspicious in our neighborhood I take a photo. A photo of a car, a license plate or a person can help our local police out a lot more than a 'well, I think it was a red car' or 'the person was wearing jeans'. In some cases, one look at the photos of a car or person and the police know who it is! We have to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.


Thu, Nov 22, 2012 : 2:54 p.m.

Another great column, Rich. Thanks, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!