Thursday, January 25, 2024

Urban Survival - Dealing With The Busybody Neighbor

By Tim Gamble

Whether they are just overly nosy or actually malicious, the Busybody Neighbor seems to exist in every neighborhood and community. Who is the Busybody Neighbor?
  • Constantly watches you and your family from their window
  • Asks overly personal and inappropriate questions
  • Constantly makes critical comments about you, your family, home, or yard 
  • Constantly complains about everything you or your family does
  • Spreads gossip about you or your family
  • Snoops around your trash, mailbox, or yard
  • Reports you to the HOA or local authorities about whatever they disapprove of, no matter how small...
These are only a few of the possibilities of a Busybody Neighbor. Busybodies can be anything from mildly annoying to outright dangerous. So, how can you deal with the Busybody Neighbor?

1) Ignore them. If they are just being nosy or mildly irksome, simply ignoring them my be your best option. 

2) Make friends with them. Many people, particularly the elderly and shut-ins, become busybodies out of sheer loneliness or boredom. Spying on you makes their lives a bit more interesting. Try making friends with them.  Besides, an extra pair of (friendly) eyes watching your home when you're not there could be a good thing.   

3) Politely, but firmly, refuse to answer personal or inappropriate questions. Just being neighbors doesn't make you friends, and its okay to point that out to them. "I'm sorry, I don't talk about my finances/politics/religion/whatever with acquaintances" is a perfectly valid and acceptable response. So is a polite "That's really none of your business."  

4) Politely confront them. Let them know you know about their bad behavior. "Please don't snoop in my mailbox again, or I will report you to the post office." When they angrily deny it, simply smile and say "Then you have nothing to worry about. Just remember, my cell phone takes excellent video." Then walk away from them. There is no need to extend the confrontation.

5) Practice OPSEC. Operational security is mostly about taking commonsense measures to protect your privacy. Shred sensitive documents (bills, etc) before throwing them away. Keep your curtains closed at night. Don't carry on loud conversations of a personal nature within earshot of your neighbors (keep those conversations indoors). For much more on OPSEC, see my three part series (Part 1Part 2Part 3).

6) Keep your house doors, car doors, garage, and fence gates locked. You can even get a lockable mailbox, if that is a concern. Just remember, locks don't work if you don't lock them. 

7) Install privacy barriers. Put up a fence to keep people off your property. Get a dog to further discourage trespassers. Put up a privacy fence to block snooping eyes. Plant roses or other thorny plants outside your windows. 

8) Live in an apartment? Your options may be limited, but you still have some: Put up blackout curtains or blinds and keep them closed to block peepers. Always keep your door locked, even when you're home. Get a small yip-yip dog and they'll let you know when someone is snooping outside your door or windows. Don't talk too loudly when discussing personal matters, even when you are inside. Keep your WiFi secured with a hard-to-guess password. Document any problems you are having with neighbors, then let the landlord or building manager know about it.

9) Get the police involved if its serious enough. If you are concerned about the safety of your family, absolutely contact the police. If someone has crossed the line and become a stalker, if they are making threats, if they may be engaging in illegal activities, or if they are repeatedly coming onto your property without you permission or good cause, keep careful record of their activities (log times & events, get eyewitnesses, photos or videos), and report them to the police. 

10) Install an alarm system and/or security cameras. A multi-camera CCTV system with DVR recorder can be had for under $200 (here's one such system on Amazon).

!! One last bit of advice:  Never threaten or retaliate. In sports, it seems like it is always the player who retaliates that gets caught. If someone threatens you with physical harm, that is a crime. If you threaten them back, that too is a crime. "They did it first" isn't a legal excuse. Get the authorities involved if things become bad.

*** This article is a reprint, with a few minor edits, of an article I originally wrote in 2018.
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