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Subject: How and when and if to call the police
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BillD16
(Texas)

Posts:21


09/05/2021 2:32 PM  
I am a member of an HOA Board in Austin, Texas. I live in a pleasant UMC neighborhood of about 600 detached single-family homes.

I’m posting to ask if y’all have ever issued any kind of ‘guidance’ to your community about how and when to call the police?

Details:

My neighborhood has been seeing a surge in the number of incidents reported via FB and other unofficial channels. Examples would be: non-residents attempting to enter the pool and other resident-only areas; non-residents walking into yards and peeking in windows and trying to open doors; thefts from parked automobiles; non-residents defecating onto the sidewalk; used needles discarded in common areas. These non-residents are often homeless people.

My neighborhood is extremely diverse: there are many people living here who come from other countries who are unsure of how things work in the US. Plus we are home to a wide range of political opinions. As a result, there is confusion amongst the residents about

- Whether or not to call the police
- When to call the police
- How to call the police (911? 311? Other?)

Frankly, I am concerned about the general safety of the people who live here. I have pondered distributing some kind of safety guidance but encountered some resistance such as:

- “We can’t advise people to call 911 because of liability issues.” Really?
- “This isn’t an issue for the Board to deal with.” True?

I’d very much appreciate hearing from anyone who has thoughts, especially if they’ve ever dealt with a similar issue. If it makes any difference: historically we’ve never managed to pull together any kind of Neighborhood Watch program. I can see how maybe “how to call the police” isn’t something the Board should be involved with? But also: the Board is the closest thing to any kind of local ‘authorityΏ]’ that we have here.

Thank you,

Bill

Ώ] I mean ‘authority’ in the sense of “a resource that provides good answers” and not “ruling body”.
BenA2
(Texas)

Posts:1003


09/05/2021 2:53 PM  
The problem with telling people when to call the police is that it implies when they should not call the police and you do not want to put yourself in that position. Most police agencies will tell you to only call 9-1-1 for an emergency but will usually add that you should call whenever in doubt. That's because they do not want to ever discourage people from calling.

My suggestion is to not take up that responsibility. It's good to want to get the information to your community but I would just share information that law enforcement puts out. Austin PD probably has information giving guidance of when and what number to call. There is nothing wrong with sharing that with your residents.

I also think that you are on the right track. It would be a mistake to just ignore numerous complaints even when they are not made through official channels.
AugustinD


Posts:1585


09/05/2021 2:54 PM  
A HOA/COA board and manager should absolutely advise residents to call the police anytime the resident thinks they saw a crime.

Some residents need to be reminded that secondhand reports are not helpful to the police. It's the person who actually saw xyz crime that needs to make the report.

For those folks not from the United States: All I can do is shake my head at the cynicism and look-the-other-way attitude of some of these folks. Granted there may be a fear factor in play here, as in they do not want to rock the boat while they are strangers in a strange land.


UMC = ?

United Methodist Church?



Pedantic rant: Good writing means that a person spells out acronyms and then, right after spelling it out, puts the acronym in parentheses. Communications via internet forum are hard enough without having to guess at what the meaning of an acronym is. Example: The staff at the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) tries hard, but the truth is they are woefully underfunded and understaffed. When a complainant calls HUD, be prepared with just the facts.
MaxB4


Posts:1211


09/05/2021 3:01 PM  
Posted By AugustinD on 09/05/2021 2:54 PM
Pedantic rant:

Couldn't help myself:

What is an example of pedantic?

In the sitcom The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon Cooper is an example of a pedantic character. He is very knowledgeable, yet lacks the social skills to know when to avoid launching into a highly technical discussion that others don't care about. He takes pride in being smarter than others and brags excessively about his IQ.
MaxB4


Posts:1211


09/05/2021 3:03 PM  
Posted By AugustinD on 09/05/2021 2:54 PM


God forbid, I didn't format correctly.

What is an example of pedantic?

In the sitcom The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon Cooper is an example of a pedantic character. He is very knowledgeable, yet lacks the social skills to know when to avoid launching into a highly technical discussion that others don't care about. He takes pride in being smarter than others and brags excessively about his IQ.
LisaB21
(Texas)

Posts:8


09/05/2021 3:06 PM  
Most Police departments (PD's) also have a non emergency # to take reports of non life threatening crimes. Find out which PD covers your area and make sure residents know that # as well as the 911 used for emergencies. Are you in City of Austin? Or one of the outlying areas which may be covered my a Sheriffs Department or Constables ?
JohnT38
(South Carolina)

Posts:729


09/05/2021 3:18 PM  
We had an issue with one resident and their kids dealing crack, drinking outside in the middle of the night, throwing crap in the pool, etc. What we ended up doing was having a rep from the Sheriff's department come out for one of our monthly meetings. They educated the attendees on when and how to call the police. From what I understand they are happy to come to HOA meetings.
BillD16
(Texas)

Posts:21


09/05/2021 3:56 PM  
“UMC” is Upper Middle Class. Per https://youtu.be/2CFibAP5IBQ In this forum, I’m honestly surprised it’s not a reasonably well-known acronym. But I take your point.

> For those folks not from the United States: All I can do is shake my head
> at the cynicism and look-the-other-way attitude of some of these folks.
> Granted there may be a fear factor in play here, as in they do not want
> to rock the boat while they are strangers in a strange land.

When I was 12 years old my parents provided temporary housing for Anwar, a foreign exchange student from Pakistan. We picked him up at the airport and drove back to our house. On the way back, my father got pulled over on a dark, empty stretch of country road for doing 40mph in a 35mph zone.

I was only 12 but I could tell that Anwar was *freaking terrified*. He honestly thought he was gonna die.

But instead of pulling all of us out of the car and making us kneel on the road before shooting one or more of us in the head execution-style, the cop elected to give my father a speeding ticket. Make no mistake: the cop who gave him that ticket was an asshole. But he was not a bigger asshole than the cops in Pakistan.

So I’m not certain what your point is, but there are many places in the world where the local police do not share the same warm and fuzzy reputation that American police have - a reputation made even ‘warmer’ and ‘fuzzier’ given events of the past year. In short: yeah, there’s a “fear factor” at work.

Bill
BillD16
(Texas)

Posts:21


09/05/2021 4:00 PM  
Hi Lisa. We’re in the City of Austin. Police support has been ‘uneven’ during this past year due to infighting over defunding.

Bill
MarkM19
(Texas)

Posts:841


09/05/2021 4:38 PM  
Bill D.
I think you have been given good advice from all here. I particularly like John T.s advice. I also live in a City near Austin to the north and we are lucky to have very few of the problems you are experiencing. I am hoping it does not spread because Austin does not seem to want to enforce some of the laws on the books. We have only had some car break-in's in the last few years and those are usually young drug abusers looking for open vehicles to take stuff from dumb homeowners. Seems like they only work between 3 and 4am when they strike.

We reached out to the County who handles our Police in my City and we asked for a resource officer to come out to a open meeting for any homeowners that wanted to attend. They went over problem issues i e leaving stuff in plain site sitting on your front seat and unlocked doors. They also told those attending ways to handle other nuisances and answered questions from the audience. If your community has 600 plus homes you will need to have your PM market it and maybe provide some sweets and drinks to try and entice owners to come see the presentation. Don't expect more than 10 or 15 owners to show up.

I would not advise giving owners anything rom the HOA regarding what to do when because of the liability.
MaxB4


Posts:1211


09/05/2021 4:53 PM  
Posted By BillD16 on 09/05/2021 3:56 PM
“UMC” is Upper Middle Class. Per https://youtu.be/2CFibAP5IBQ In this forum, I’m honestly surprised it’s not a reasonably well-known acronym. But I take your point.

> For those folks not from the United States: All I can do is shake my head
> at the cynicism and look-the-other-way attitude of some of these folks.
> Granted there may be a fear factor in play here, as in they do not want
> to rock the boat while they are strangers in a strange land.

When I was 12 years old my parents provided temporary housing for Anwar, a foreign exchange student from Pakistan. We picked him up at the airport and drove back to our house. On the way back, my father got pulled over on a dark, empty stretch of country road for doing 40mph in a 35mph zone.

I was only 12 but I could tell that Anwar was *freaking terrified*. He honestly thought he was gonna die.

But instead of pulling all of us out of the car and making us kneel on the road before shooting one or more of us in the head execution-style, the cop elected to give my father a speeding ticket. Make no mistake: the cop who gave him that ticket was an asshole. But he was not a bigger asshole than the cops in Pakistan.

So I’m not certain what your point is, but there are many places in the world where the local police do not share the same warm and fuzzy reputation that American police have - a reputation made even ‘warmer’ and ‘fuzzier’ given events of the past year. In short: yeah, there’s a “fear factor” at work.

Bill



[Applause]
JohnT38
(South Carolina)

Posts:729


09/05/2021 5:04 PM  
"> For those folks not from the United States: All I can do is shake my head
> at the cynicism and look-the-other-way attitude of some of these folks."

How you can think this is not also a problem with US born citizens is simply beyond me. I'm simply baffled and hope that non US citizens know that not all of us feel this way.
AugustinD


Posts:1585


09/05/2021 5:25 PM  
Posted By JohnT38 on 09/05/2021 5:04 PM
"> For those folks not from the United States: All I can do is shake my head
> at the cynicism and look-the-other-way attitude of some of these folks."

How you can think this is not also a problem with US born citizens is simply beyond me. I'm simply baffled and hope that non US citizens know that not all of us feel this way.
It is a problem with many US born citizens as well.

When one may not yet be a citizen, or has family who are not citizens, the stakes are often higher.
AugustinD


Posts:1585


09/05/2021 5:27 PM  
Posted By MarkM19 on 09/05/2021 4:38 PM
I would not advise giving owners anything rom the HOA regarding what to do when because of the liability.
A renter calls the HOA front office and says a vendor's worker has just walked into her home, uninvited, and said he wants to have sex with her. What should the front office say?
MaxB4


Posts:1211


09/05/2021 5:31 PM  
Posted By AugustinD on 09/05/2021 5:27 PM
Posted By MarkM19 on 09/05/2021 4:38 PM
I would not advise giving owners anything rom the HOA regarding what to do when because of the liability.
A renter calls the HOA front office and says a vendor's worker has just walked into her home, uninvited, and said he wants to have sex with her. What should the front office say?



Call your landlord!
AugustinD


Posts:1585


09/05/2021 5:35 PM  
Posted By BillD16 on 09/05/2021 2:32 PM

My neighborhood is extremely diverse: there are many people living here who come from other countries who are unsure of how things work in the US.
Posted By BillD16 on 09/05/2021 3:56 PM

When I was 12 years old my parents provided temporary housing for Anwar, a foreign exchange student from Pakistan. We picked him up at the airport and drove back to our house. On the way back, my father got pulled over on a dark, empty stretch of country road for doing 40mph in a 35mph zone.

I was only 12 but I could tell that Anwar was *freaking terrified*. He honestly thought he was gonna die.

But instead of pulling all of us out of the car and making us kneel on the road before shooting one or more of us in the head execution-style, the cop elected to give my father a speeding ticket. Make no mistake: the cop who gave him that ticket was an asshole. But he was not a bigger asshole than the cops in Pakistan.

So I’m not certain what your point is, but there are many places in the world where the local police do not share the same warm and fuzzy reputation that American police have - a reputation made even ‘warmer’ and ‘fuzzier’ given events of the past year. In short: yeah, there’s a “fear factor” at work.
(sic)
MarkM19
(Texas)

Posts:841


09/05/2021 5:55 PM  
Augustin,
One of the great things about Texas is that the Vendor would probably have a good chance of being Shot.
AugustinD


Posts:1585


09/05/2021 6:05 PM  
Posted By MarkM19 on 09/05/2021 5:55 PM
One of the great things about Texas is that the Vendor would probably have a good chance of being Shot.
Then I do not know why the OP is concerned.
MarkM19
(Texas)

Posts:841


09/05/2021 6:15 PM  
Most of the issues Austin is currently having is with the Invited Homeless who have been camping under the Freeways and in the Downtown area for the last few years. After APD was partially defunded and IMO stripped of the ability to enforce some laws the situation keeps getting worse.

As someone who lives about 30 minutes North I just avoid the area. I hear that recent changes are now being put in place to handle the homeless and also the rampant street drugs in and around that City. It is sad to see such a beautiful City decay so quickly.
AugustinD


Posts:1585


09/05/2021 6:21 PM  
Posted By MarkM19 on 09/05/2021 6:15 PM
Most of the issues Austin is currently having is with the Invited Homeless who have been camping under the Freeways and in the Downtown area for the last few years. After APD was partially defunded and IMO stripped of the ability to enforce some laws the situation keeps getting worse.

As someone who lives about 30 minutes North I just avoid the area. I hear that recent changes are now being put in place to handle the homeless and also the rampant street drugs in and around that City. It is sad to see such a beautiful City decay so quickly.
Right. But whatever your HOA board and HOA manager do, they should not suggest that an owner can call the police. Because then the HOA might be liable for... what exactly?

AugustinD


Posts:1585


09/05/2021 6:27 PM  
Posted By MarkM19 on 09/05/2021 6:15 PM
Most of the issues Austin is currently having is with the Invited Homeless who have been camping under the Freeways and in the Downtown area for the last few years. After APD was partially defunded and IMO stripped of the ability to enforce some laws the situation keeps getting worse.
Golly. Funny how the increase in the number of homeless in Texas has nothing to do with the pandemic.

My understanding is that the numbers of homeless are way up all over the country. I do not live in Texas. I am astonished at how many homeless folks I see along my city's bike trails these days.

But Texans are well-armed, you say. Problem solved, you say.
MarkM19
(Texas)

Posts:841


09/05/2021 6:29 PM  
Augustin,
You are a very smart contributor and I always respect your opinions even when sometimes they are slightly different from mine.

Liability is something that has many flavors these days. If the board says don't call 911 is someone is on your property or in your backyard and then a break-in occurs. A lawyer could certainly say that the board gave bad advice even if the HO did not even know about the advice. If it is written in minutes it can be turned against the HOA as a whole. That my thought anyway. As we have all read and most of us believe you can sue a Ham sandwich. Even if you win you really don't unless you are the lawyers in most cases.

My comment was to avoid any Extra liability if at all possible.
MarkM19
(Texas)

Posts:841


09/05/2021 6:38 PM  
Well armed most of us are are but there is not a season for hunting homeless or mentally disturbed individuals who live on the streets. I do not have an answer to the problem just stating that Austin has one that is probably causing the OPs problems.

I really do not ever like to get off topic and into Politics but I was amazed when the Austin Mayor Steve Adler and and group of local City Politicians went to San Francisco to learn how they handled the homeless crisis in that City. I had to Shake My Head SMH as someone who lived near and worked in that City on occasions that would not be where I would go for the roadmap for success.
AugustinD


Posts:1585


09/05/2021 6:41 PM  
Posted By MarkM19 on 09/05/2021 6:29 PM
If the board says don't call 911 is someone is on your property or in your backyard and then a break-in occurs.
We are not talking about the Board and Manager advising owners and residents to not call the police. We are talking about the Board and Manager telling residents and owners to call the police.

I think people in this thread claiming there are "liability concerns" are shooting from the hip.

Sorry to give you a hard time. You have a right to your opinion that a manager, who is called by a resident who has seen an apparent crime, should either just stay silent, or say there's nothing the HOA can do [ending the conversation].

AugustinD


Posts:1585


09/05/2021 6:45 PM  
Posted By MarkM19 on 09/05/2021 6:38 PM
I really do not ever like to get off topic and into Politics
Yeah well I am no Republican, but FWIW the moment I heard about this 'movement' to defund the police (a bit after George Floyd's murder), I instantly thought, "What?? Defunding the police is the dumbest idea I ever heard (when it comes to addressing xyz)." I was pleased Biden just about instantly (within a few days IIRC) responded he was against "defunding the police."
BillD16
(Texas)

Posts:21


09/05/2021 8:53 PM  
I get a sense that I’ve accidentally triggered some responses that are based prior discussions here?

I’d like to point out that the hypothetical that AugustinD (AD) posited is entirely his and not mine.

In truth, I really don’t see how advising residents to call 911 (or 311 etc) could incur liability under any theory of liability that I have ever heard of. Although AD’s scenario would qualify under (at least) respondeat superior, vicarious liability, negligence, and probably vanilla strict liability. I think if I were the front office and I got that call, I’d say “Put him on the phone right now!” Which I figure is worth a shot, because at this point I’m already screwed just as badly as if I responded “Can I watch?” Sometimes the only winning move is not to play.

While I appreciate the thinking behind it, I do feel it’s important to note here that AD’s hypothetical has absolutely nothing in common with the question that I asked.

But I do thank you all for your comments, which have convinced me that, pragmatically, the best thing I can do to try to help keep my neighborhood safe is to ask Austin Police Department (APD) to host a meeting about neighborhood crime prevention via Zoom or whatever (this being Austin, we’ve seen our Home Owners Association (HOA) meeting attendance and participation increase substantially since Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pushed us to use teleconferencing).

And I’ll not comment on Austin’s current situation With Respect To (WRT) homelessness or defunding except to say that if you don’t live here, you really can’t appreciate what a Massive C*********k (MCF) it all is. But I’m certain that the new Constitutional Carry (CC) will only make things better.

I just want my neighborhood to be a nice place.

Bill
AugustinD


Posts:1585


09/06/2021 6:40 AM  
Posted By BillD16 on 09/05/2021 8:53 PM

While I appreciate the thinking behind it, I do feel it’s important to note here that AD’s hypothetical has absolutely nothing in common with the question that I asked.
Huh.
HenryS6
(Arizona)

Posts:55


09/06/2021 10:35 AM  
BillD,

I feel I am late to the party, but I would suggest you reach out to your police department and see if they have a spokesman available to speak to the community on the subject. The police generally are really interested in reaching out to disadvantaged groups, and it sounds like your population would fit that bill, so I would bet that they would be highly receptive.

We are doing this in our community. For us, the police chief is coming to the next meeting to discuss safety and security and provide tips on how to ensure that we maintain the security of the neighobrhood. I've advertised this on social media and we will be doing an e-mail blast as well the day prior to the meeting. It's on Zoom of course due to COVID concerns.
BillD16
(Texas)

Posts:21


09/06/2021 5:15 PM  
Thank you, Henry,

> The police generally are really interested in reaching out to disadvantaged groups …

I’m not certain that that is especially true in Austin at this time. Also note: the homeowners in my neighborhood aren’t disadvantaged.

However, I agree with you and JohnT and others that some kind of “Get To Know Your Police” meeting where the police can talk to the residents is probably the best way to go on this. iI’ve got my fingers crossed that the police will tell people to call 911 and allow the HOA to conveniently sidestep the spectre of “liability”.

Bill
LetA
(Nevada)

Posts:1388


09/06/2021 5:17 PM  
The police won't do jack squat unless you're a casino or live in a million dollar guard gated community and or a elected person or juiced in person lives in that community.
Vegas is rampant with homeless ever in the gated community that I live in. Security patrols or on-site guards that can make arrest "POST" Certified. I am in the security business and it is a whack-a-mole game with these vagrants. One property is an apartment community that has patio furniture outside of a fob access pool, yet on a nightly basis I am kicking out the same vagrant every night. If I call the police, they likely won't show for several days. It is a losing battle. Suburban departments have a better chance of showing up especially if the area has a history of problems.

You might have to hire a security guard on-site to patrol the grounds and up your HOA security by installing surveillance cameras at key areas that have problems like the park and pool. Also switch to fob key access to the pool so you have a record of who used the pool and what time and date.
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:8525


09/06/2021 6:44 PM  
I agree with the first poster who suggested a community meeting with one or two police officers. While we haven't had them in our HOA, there a have been couple of such meetings in a neighborhood venue that was very well attended. A male and a female officer presented some ideas and told us what the police can and cannot do, some phone numbers & websites for various types of problems. These contacts are posted every month in our newsletter. And yes, the topic was homeless people hanging out in an 1 -12 ac. heavily treed city park with ZERO amenities across the street from my HOA for the past few years.

I feel that officers of tow genders help reassure folks. I think such a meeting would be especially helpful to immigrants who correctly might be afraid of the police. Upper-middle-classness is no protection to them any more than it is to black or brown young men.

The meetings have been very informative. Perhaps there also are better security measures you can take, Bill.

I always am suspicious of the social media and think that activities or behaviors get exaggerated on them and even cause social panics. I would urge residents to report to the PM incidents that involve damage to the common areas and take pictures if possible. I would urge residents to use the contact info that's in he HOA's newsletter.

TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:17710


09/07/2021 12:27 PM  
Bill,

My advice is as follows:

1) The board should only take action on complaints through official channels.

2) The board, if they haven't done so already, should install video cameras in the pool area to allow investigation of complaints and provide documentation for the police (if needed).

3) In cases of theft or vandalism to vehicles, those involved along with any witnesses should contact the police directly (not an HOA issue).

4) In cases of trespassing on private property (walking into yards, peeking into windows) those who witnessed should contact the police directly.


All that said, I recall from previous threads that in many areas this type of activity occurs often and is sometimes a very low priority for the police to respond to. I also understand that its an issue the local municipality won't get involved in (I think because they don't know what to do either).

If this is the situation in your area, the only other real option may be private security. However, with that option, there are costs, liabilities and potential perception issues that the board or membership may not desire to incur.

The Association may want to look into associated costs of private security so they have answers for those who ask. Perhaps you can do that and present it to the board.

The only other option I can think of is to talk with the local police/sheriff department and get some suggestions from their perspective.


Hope this helps,

Tim
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:11422


09/07/2021 1:11 PM  
Bill

I would consider sending a letter to owners informing them if they observe anything illegal, to call the police. Do not have the BOD playing cop.
SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:4175


09/09/2021 9:32 AM  
Can't argue with some of the suggestions already made here, starting with calling police if you see a crime in progress, an accident or there's a situation where someone's life is in immediate danger. That's what we've told our community, but the liability issue doesn't come up - probably because the association can't guarantee that crime won't happen in any community. I don't care how many security patrols, guard dogs, Ring doorbells or whatever you may have - if someone's hell-bent on causing mayhem, they'll find a way to do it.

Bill mentioned his community is very diverse and I suspect part of the reason this issue has come up is that there are people who call police merely because someone's simply living his/her life while black/Asian/Hispanic, etc., doing things like delivering packages for Amazon, doing yardwork in their own front yard, canvassing neighbors because they're a state representative and that neighborhood is in the district, and so on. By the way, all of this stuff and a lot more really happened (do some Googling if you dare).

And now it's time for another useful article - this one discusses things to consider before calling the police. In addition to what the police in your area tell you, this provides some food for thought so people can determine if police should actually be called. If so, maybe it's enough to call the non-emergency number. https://www.verywellmind.com/things-to-consider-before-you-call-the-police-on-someone-5076019

JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:11422


09/09/2021 12:11 PM  
Posted By SheliaH on 09/09/2021 9:32 AM
Can't argue with some of the suggestions already made here, starting with calling police if you see a crime in progress, an accident or there's a situation where someone's life is in immediate danger. That's what we've told our community, but the liability issue doesn't come up - probably because the association can't guarantee that crime won't happen in any community. I don't care how many security patrols, guard dogs, Ring doorbells or whatever you may have - if someone's hell-bent on causing mayhem, they'll find a way to do it.

Bill mentioned his community is very diverse and I suspect part of the reason this issue has come up is that there are people who call police merely because someone's simply living his/her life while black/Asian/Hispanic, etc., doing things like delivering packages for Amazon, doing yardwork in their own front yard, canvassing neighbors because they're a state representative and that neighborhood is in the district, and so on. By the way, all of this stuff and a lot more really happened (do some Googling if you dare).

And now it's time for another useful article - this one discusses things to consider before calling the police. In addition to what the police in your area tell you, this provides some food for thought so people can determine if police should actually be called. If so, maybe it's enough to call the non-emergency number. https://www.verywellmind.com/things-to-consider-before-you-call-the-police-on-someone-5076019




Good read. Thanks for the link.
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