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Neigborhood Safety

NEIGHBORHOOD DISPUTES

A neighborhood dispute is not unlimited warfare. There is no need for police or sharply worded legal documents in most instances.

The following information has been assembled to give an overview of Lynnwood neighborhood dispute resolution policies. This is also a recount of advice of judges, attorneys, professional mediators, and law professors. Learning the do's and don'ts of neighborhood disputes can avoid stress and economic losses!

Dealing With Difficult Neighbors
Getting ready to mow his lawn in Lynnwood, Chuck Brown finds the neighbor's children have once again left their toys and bicycles on his property. Instead of bringing the items to his neighbors property, he throws the items into his garbage can. This sets off a neighborhood dispute that lasts for five years until he moved.

Unfortunately, such situations are very common. This is especially true in neighborhoods where people are constantly moving in or out. People simply don't take the time and effort to get to know their neighbors. With greater pressures and time constraints of working families, conflicts in the neighborhoods are on the rise.

By tracking problems about property lines, loud stereos, run down projects, loose garbage, undisciplined children, pets, and late night noise, there is little doubt that some people in Lynnwood need to be educated in getting along in an increasingly crowded urban setting.

According to the executive director of the Snohomish County Dispute Resolution Center in Everett, WA, neighborhood disputes make a small number of the cases referred to mediation. The numbers are growing as more people discover the service as a way to resolve problems. Some neighborhood dispute cases are serious, but many are totally absurd. Eventually even absurd cases can lead to serious financial losses and disruptions to people's lives.

Two Lynnwood neighbors, both dog owners, walked their dogs on leashes; each owner accused the other's dog of fouling the lawn. The dispute escalated with accusations of criminal trespass. The police had to be called in. An "Anti Harassment Order" was issued by the District Court. Both houses were put up for sale and a race ensued where each party lowered their asking price weekly just to get away from the other.

It had been suggested by City officials that the parties initially could have benefited from mediation by the Dispute Resolution Center. The situation had, however, spun out of control when the parties brought in the police and a "No Contact Order" had to be issued. Each family obviously sustained thousands of dollars in lost income when the houses were sold for far less than the actual value and their lives were disrupted for long period. All due to a failure to communicate.

"Love Thy Neighbor" is an often quoted teaching, but the civil courts are clogged with complaints where the neighbors are just plain nasty and unreasonable.


HOW TO AVOID NEIGHBORHOOD FIGHTS

Here are some examples of steps you may take:

Common Courtesy

Get to know your neighbor, invite them to your party if you can or warn them they may be some parking congestion if you arrange festivities. If you have a tree which sheds needles or leaves onto your neighbor's yard, offer to take their yard or help dispose of leaves.

Make Friends

During the winter storms of 1996, many Lynnwood neighbors became acquainted when they were visited by common disasters of flooding, collapsed carports, and fallen down fences. As a result of helping each other in a difficult time, many neighborhoods were made stronger by new found friendships. It is much easier to deal with petty problems after you have extended a helping hand in disaster.

Don't Let Things Fester

There are many situations where neighbors have called City authorities week after week, keeping police and nuisance abatement personnel busy answering complaints about noise, improperly parked vehicles, junk, and garbage. Many of these folks have not spoken in years. In most of these situations, the people can't remember what set the series of events off in the first place. When a problem arises, try to find a neutral place to discuss the problem, like the sidewalk, neighborhood park, or while they are in the yard. Going to the door often makes a person defensive since there is a sense of invasion.

Check the Law

In Lynnwood there are many local laws and regulations governing the noise, pets, eyesores, accumulation of junk vehicles. If you have any questions, please call 425 670-5418. Code Enforcement laws are very specific. You can look up the ordinance at the library or city hall under the Lynnwood Municipal Code Index. Sometimes a photocopy, together with a polite note, can be mailed to a neighbor and bring desired results. But remember: Not all irritations are governed by the law!

Have an Attorney Write a Letter for You

Sometimes, if diplomacy fails, a letter from a lawyer can be very effective. It does not cost much if you bring the particulars to the attorney in an organized manner.

Enlist Support

In neighborhood disputes, no one is eager to confront an offending neighbor alone. If the problem affects a number of other properties, a letter with five or six signatures can avoid you being singled out as a "troublemaker." Do not have spouses or children sign the letter to run up the numbers. DO NOT EXAGGERATE!
Think Before You Call The Police There are times when law enforcement needs to be called. Often animal control, code enforcement, or zoning officials can address the problem more effectively. The police should be brought in as needed, but it is difficult to mediate AFTER the police have become involved.

To Report Complaints

Animal Control 425 670-5660
Code Enforcement 425 670-5418
Public Works 425 670-5201
Zoning 425 670-5410
Emergencies 911

You can request that your name be held confidential when you make a complaint.

Find A Go-Between

The Volunteers of America organization operates the Snohomish County Dispute Resolution Center. The mediation service allows both sides their uninterrupted say in a civilized and courteous maner. Generally, only one or two sessions are necessary to come to an agreement. Since the parties have worked out the agreement themselves, the results are more lasting than a solution imposed by authorities. Over 90% of the problems put before the Dispute Resolution Center are resolved with little cost to the participants. Call 425 339-1335 for more information.

Head For Court

If your neighbor won't mediate, court may be your only option. Any individual, business, partnership, or corporation (with a couple of exceptions) may bring a small claims suit for recovery of money only where the amount claimed does not exceed $5,000. Attorneys and paralegals are excluded from appearing or participating with the plaintiff or defendant in a small claims suit unless the judge grants advance permission.

Protective Orders

Under extreme circumstances you may seek an anti-harassment order at Snohomish County District Court.  For District Court information, please contact the automated information line at 425-388-3331. The person must feel genuinely threatened for such an order to be issued. A violation will result in arrests by the police. Between neighbors, anti-harassment orders are difficult to enforce and any possible mediation potential is often lost if such an order is made.

Don't Exaggerate

Nothing will doom a possible solution more than an exagerration of the problem.
Don't Make Disrespectful Or Discriminatory Remarks About A Person's Gender, Religion, Race, Age, or Nationality These issues have nothing to do with a code violation. Stick to the relevant facts!
All it takes is a little willingness to sit down and listen, put yourself in the other person's shoes, talk things through respectfully, and do it as soon as you can.

HOW TO FIND A SAFE APARTMENT

Are you looking for an apartment?

The Lynnwood Police Department wants to help you choose a safe place. By doing a little detective work yourself and following these listed suggestions, you can get a more accurate picture of the safety of the apartment you are considering.

Walk around the complex yourself and see how all the buildings are maintained. Are the grounds well kept? Are the common areas neat? Do you see trash lying around? Are the laundry rooms secure and clean? If there is a pool area or weight room, are they well maintained?

Try to be there when people come home from work. Do they look like the kind of people you want for neighbors? Strike up a conversation by telling them you are considering an apartment in this complex. Ask them what they think of the safety of the area, response of management to problems, what crimes, if any, occur there. Also ask them if they would choose this place if they had the chance to do it over again.

It is also a very good idea to be there after dark to look at the lighting of the complex. Good lighting on porches, grounds and play yards, storage areas and laundry rooms, mail boxes and parking areas deters crime.
Drive a 3 to 4 block square area. This will be your new neighborhood should you decide to move in. What do you think about the safety of the area?

Drive the routes you will commonly use to and from work, school, shopping, etc. Do they seem safe?
Ask the management if they have an Apartment Watch program with the police department. Do they have regularly scheduled meetings for residents on topics of safety?

If there is a specific unit you are considering, it's a good idea to knock on a few doors to find out who your new neighbors may be. It would be helpful to meet the people on either side and above you. Do you think they will be good neighbors? Of course, there is no guarantee they will always be there, but you can often avoid a bad situation in advance.

Look over the apartment you are considering. Is the door solid and does it have a sturdy dead bolt lock? Is there a peephole? How is the outdoor lighting on the porch and deck? Do sliding glass doors and windows have a secondary lock? (You can usually buy a simple device to add extra security here). Many people think upper units are safer than ground floor apartments.

For More Information
Call the Crime Prevention Unit of the Lynnwood Police Department for further information at 425-670-5635.