My neighborhood has a problem with bullying

It makes sense that a real estate mobbing, an organized crime whose goal is forced eviction and the “turning over” of a property for speculation, would occur here in this lakeside neighborhood of northeast Seattle that has been the focus of a small group of residential developers and real estate speculators since the early days of recovery from the “Great Recession.” It makes sense that this brutal crime would be perpetrated by small-time house flippers who thrive on neighborhood brouhahas and economic distress, or fly-by-night developers thrilled at the prospect of playing cops-and-robbers as they bully the vulnerable off property they want. Symbolically, real estate mobbing might be seen as a revenge crime of embattled home owners against the renters they scapegoat for diminished property values or a “feel-good” crime of owners against renters who fared better than they did in the recession, kind of like the crimes of the Nazi era against the Jews they blamed for any downturn.

No matter how you cut it, real estate mobbing makes sense in my anti-renter neighborhood. My neighborhood has a problem with bullying.

Real estate mobbing is bullying, and probably bullying by mercenaries. In other words, these are profiteers—bullies who are in it for the money, bullies who make a craft of harassment by using technology and psychology as weapons against their “target.” It’s a safe bet that mobbers work for hire out to developers or are small-time developers in the “gangsta” and “badass” style of propertymob.com, or that they would brazenly take up residence in or otherwise occupy houses next to the properties they want to acquire. In my case, mobbing seems to involve harassers coming and going from bullying shifts in the houses on either side of me in an increasing theme of male-on-female bullying with a median bully age in the early thirties. In this neighborhood, it looks a lot like some overly privileged kids who think bullying is the best way to a business deal or the quickest path to success.

The problem with bullying in my neighborhood is personified by the attitude of the neighborhood watch, chief among them a woman who lives across the street, a woman who told my landlady within weeks of meeting me, that she had a good tenant for her. My landlord told me about it years later, assuring me that she’d told the woman she already had a good tenant.

This early attempt to undermine my tenancy in a manner that could have been considered a tortious interference soon escalated into an all-out campaign to unseat a tenant that this captain of the neighborhood watch did not choose.  Along with increasingly bizarre accusations of degeneracy came complaint after complaint, first to my landlords about the legal things I did, and then to the police and the authorities, of things I did that were not substantially different than those things anyone else did in the neighborhood. At first wheedling and then nagging complaints to home owners about the legal activities of their tenants escalated to threats and bullying by a neighborhood watch all too willing to turn a blind eye to the law.

A year or two back, another one of the neighborhood watch advanced on me in the street, even raising his arm until his wife caught it. Red-faced and shaking, he warned me that renters have no right to park on this public street. That man used to be a City of Seattle manager and now runs interference with the City of Seattle on some of the initiatives of the neighborhood watch.

That same year some other renters moved in down the street, into a home whose owner’s wife had apparently been “harassed” by the woman who lives across from me, to the point where she no longer wanted to live in the neighborhood. The renters occupying the house were definitely not the neighborhood watch sort, and quickly accumulated their own collection of complaints as their vehicles were red-tagged and they received complaints about matters including their placement of trash and the barking of their dogs. Within months, the police showed up at their door after a complaint that they were cocaine dealers. Then they were served with a temporary restraining order on behalf of a neighborhood watch captain in a gambit apparently intended to put them into a state of legal peril that would force them from their new home. Before declining to purchase their rented home a year later, one of them told me they heard a petition demanding them to leave the neighborhood had been circulated at the neighborhood summer potluck.

This dynamic of bullying is reflected in the stratified view the neighborhood watch and their cronies have of this public neighborhood bound by public byways and waters, and supported by public monies and services. Home owners in my neighborhood, at least those in the neighborhood watch, as well as their friends who may not live in this lakeside enclave but who profit from its rapid redevelopment since recovery from the “Great Recession” of 2007 through 2009, seem to regard the neighborhood not as a home collectively shared and tended by those who dwell here but as ground to be broken on their private investments.

As well as being expressed in their attitude towards those who rent or those who choose to stand outside of their dominion, their plots and machinations, this less than neighborly view is expressed by their inordinate interest in their neighbors’ homes—at least perhaps, the homes of the neighbors they’d like to see flipped or redeveloped. This interest in their neighbors’ homes sometimes seems to take precedence over their caring for their own homes or forging the kind of relationships with their neighbors that would create a truly good neighborhood. In my case, the nasty neighborhood watch captain behaved characteristically the day she walked away from me, agreeing that my garden looked good and then hurling back over her shoulder, “I hope someone buys it.” Within a year or two of that statement, she told her then boyfriend as I gardened within earshot, “I’m getting rid of her.”

Indeed. If a bullying situation must have a leader, this woman took on the mantle.

Last year, my neighborhood was afflicted with a more significant property dispute than the most common of the property disputes that routinely occur between two owners on either side of a property line. This one began in 2013 when Keith and Kay Holmquist and Frederick Kaseburg, the home owners on either side of a neglected lot along the shores of Lake Washington laid claim to it as their own under the law. A nasty brouhaha ensued. A ruling by King County Superior Court Judge Monica Benton had agreed with the home owners that “title to the platted street end was always in the adjoining owners of platted lots.” They fenced the lot after the ruling was made; the fencing of the lot was probably done to mark their anticipated private use. The two owners also installed a sign reading “WARNING. Security Cameras in Use.” (Sell or we’ll use eminent domain, Seattle mayor tells owners of beach lot, http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/sell-or-we-use-eminent-domain-mayor-tells-owners-of-beach-lot/)

This was a “surprise” to King County and the City of Seattle and the neighborhood watch in this affluent enclave responded with a grand campaign to nullify this “greedy” land-grab and return an arguable “nuisance” to the “community.”

Signs were printed to “Save the beach,” petitions were signed, and pressure was applied to enlist the support of the Mayor. Finally, another lawsuit was brought and the empty lot was “freed” from private ownership and returned to ownership by the “community.”

In a Seattle Times article, Lake City residents fight to regain use of now-private beach (http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/lake-city-residents-fight-to-regain-use-of-now-private-beach/) Eric Lacitus chronicles the response to the home owners whose claim to the neglected lot was granted by the court before the City of Seattle was moved to threaten eminent domain. The public Burke-Gilman bike and walking trail that runs along Riviera Place NE gave easy access to the properties of Holmquist and Kaseburg, the home owners who sought to privatize the neglected lot.

The Lacitus article documents Pepper Schwartz, Kaseburg’s fiance and University of Washington professor telling Sue Pope that her chalking “Save the Beach” was illegal. Lacitus relates the Facebook posting in which Pope herself says she responded to Schwartz by saying, “If you want to talk about ‘illegal’ how about a guy who deprives an entire neighborhood of a community beach!” Another article in the Seattle Times supplies the missing information that Sue’s husband David Pope made the chalk available for people to write messages by the lot. In no time flat, Holmquist was waking up to see the chalked message “GREED” in front of his home, an arrow pointing to his property, and abuse was hurled from passersby on the Burke-Gilman bike trail at both home owners as well as doggy bags of doo flung onto their properties by canine-loving Robin Hoods.

In Seattle uses eminent domain to turn a parking lot into a parking lot, the conservative site Watchdog.org lambasted the City of Seattle’s threatened use of eminent domain to resettle the dispute in favor of the “Friends.” (http://watchdog.org/112499/seattle-uses-eminent-domain-turn-parking-lot-parking-lot/)  There are numerous comments on the web that fault the City of Seattle for using public funds to settle a property dispute over a lot used by a small number of well-to-do home owners, some of them scoffing at the dispute as a fight between the rich and the rich. In this neighborhood that is also rich in property disputes, the fight over the NE 130th Street Beach was just another kind of adverse possession lawsuit, with a best case outcome of increasing property values by maintaining proximity to a lake-front “park.”

Access to this “park” by the people of Seattle is arguably “public” in name only. To visit this undeveloped “park,” one travels the Burke-Gilman bike trail or threads their way along the winding roads and dead ends from Sandpoint Way down to the lakeside Riviera Place NE. Without GPS or a good map, finding Riviera Place NE is no small feat. And the unmarked “park” has no dock, no restrooms, and no potable water.

The common belief in the Seattle cycling communities I’ve inhabited is that the Burke-Gilman walking and cycling trail is a thorn in the side to many of those who live along Riviera Place NE and that they fought King County improvements made to widen and repave the trail a few years back. For lakesiders whose properties are bounded by water, the Burke-Gilman is their back yard; the narrow passage of Riviera Place NE is their driveway. If the NE 130th Street “park” became a destination for a substantial number of kayakers and dog walkers, it is likely that their wanderings from the trail and their competing for parking along the crowded Riviera Place NE would meet with a different response from residents.

When I first moved to the neighborhood, one day as I traveled on Riviera Place NE my path was blocked by the angry advance of a man who’d been playing hoops with his very young children in the street. For him, Riviera Place NE was a public road he refused to share. It was also where he stored his roll-away basketball hoop between closely parked vehicles on the road. This attitude is not dissimilar from that of some in Santa Fe, New Mexico who did not welcome flatlanders from Albuquerque and for that reason did not support a shuttle between the two cities. For neighborhoods such as these, the word “public” has a different meaning.

On August 13th, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced that the city would buy the privatized portion of the two lots to “restore waterfront access to the public” (Seattle to restore public access to Lake Washington beach, http://www.king5.com/story/news/local/seattle/2015/08/14/city-restore-public-access-cedar-park-beach/31689107/) Holmquist said of the efforts of nearby home owners in this upscale area to personally attack and vilify the two home owners, “People are taking it very personal—as if it’s an attack upon them. It’s not an attack upon them. The law is law, and the courts held up the law.”

Indeed, the tactics of the “Friends” to reclaim the neglected lot assumed a moral righteousness that was not upheld by the law. In a post on the “Friends of NE 130th Beach” Facebook page, David Pope rallies the troops, “Justified by some perverted sense of entitlement they apparently have no sense of shame or morality.” (https://www.facebook.com/groups/284635865015041/) In another celebratory post, Pope announced the availability of a “d” sticker that would turn the “Save the Beach” campaign into a “Saved the Beach” crow.

This “moral harassment” came to an end finally on September 29, 2015. Reverend Sandy Brown’s post on the Seattle District 5 Facebook page announces a “truly great day for NE Seattle” and includes a photograph of Mayor Murray signing the legislation returning the “beach” at NE 130th Street to public hands.

saved_beach_photo

City of Seattle Mayor Ed Murray signs legislation returning the NE 130th beach to public ownership. Members of the Save the Beach campaign wear the blue t-shirts and include, left to right, the Popes, Sandra Perkins, Rev. Sandy Brown, and Tim and Sandra Motzer.

The photograph shows Sue Pope and her husband, attorney Sandra Perkins and others including Tim and Sandy Motzer of the South Cedar Park “Good Neighbors” Association, a neighborhood watch. Tim Motzer is a former City of Seattle manager. (https://www.facebook.com/groups/seattledistrict5/permalink/867641609980224/)

According to MyNorthwest.com, Sandy Motzer, who lives nearby with husband Tim, called the two owners “downright selfish.” Ms. Motzer complained, “They already have waterfront access. A lot of people don’t.” (Seattle neighbors fight uphill battle to maintain public Lake Washington access, http://mynorthwest.com/11/2716139/Seattle-neighbors-fight-uphill-battle-to-maintain-public-Lake-Washington-access).  This is an accurate statement. King County public records show that the home of the Motzers does not have immediate lake access. Their home is about ten yards from Lake Washington.

Comments like these voice a sentiment common in this community by the “beach.” As one homeowner bitterly put it as he rapidly pointed at the locations of four or five property disputes within a half block of my own rented home, “It’s just another case of people wanting something that belongs to someone else.”

Sandra Motzer is active in numerous community groups and chair of the Lake City Neighborhood Alliance, community group which seeks “to convey Lake City’s support and/or opposition and/or concerns” about Mayor Murray’s plan to fight homelessness in the city with measures that include the building of affordable housing and changes in single-family zoning. (How Does HALA Affect Lake City? Workshop this Saturday!, http://lakecitylive.net/author/families-for-lake-city/)

It is clear that housing and zoning are of great interest to Sandra Motzer based on her email of October 13, 2014 with the subject of “On-street parking” in her own neighborhood. Ms. Motzer addressed her email to members of the South Cedar Park “Good Neighbors Association” including co-captains Lee Mozena, John Clark and Tim Motzer, two builders active in the neighborhood, two home owners actively engaged in remodeling their own new acquisitions on either side of a renter who would later seek anti-harassment orders, and, curiously, Seattle Police Officer Kipp Strong of the North Precinct Community Police Team (CPT). In the email, Ms. Motzer states her intention to ask Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to “paint the street around the hydrant” next to a rented house. Noting how codes regulating 72-hour parking and parking near hydrants could be used to constrain the use of on-street parking by the occupants of two rented houses, she says:

Between that rule and the no parking within 5 feet of a driveway and 15 feet of a fire hydrant, it’s going to be lots tougher for [renters in house 1] and [renter in house 2] to take over our [emphasis mine] street—and it gives us legal tools to regain control that apparently just appalling awful behavior does not. And perhaps will serve as encouragement for both [renters in house 1] and [renter in house 2] to move.

I’ll call Jim Curtin at SDOT Monday. I will ask SDOT to paint the street around the hydrant so the no-parking boundaries are clear. Plus now Tim and I really need a guard rail along the length of the right-of-way that abuts our property.

It’s difficult to reconcile Ms. Motzer’s public comments on the “selfishness” of owners who would legally seek to privatize a neglected lot with these private comments. I won’t speculate on the “appalling awful behavior” that she seems to hint had already been used to bully renters in the neighborhood. The two rented houses of interest to Ms. Motzer and the recipients of the email were located on a small stretch of road populated by captains of the watch and the site of successive construction projects. The landlords of one of the rented homes had received alternate demands from a co-captain of the neighborhood watch to “return” the driveway of their rented home to green space and to force their tenant to give construction workers parking in the driveway she leased.

To his credit, one of the developers passed the email on to the renters of the house next door to a lot he has yet to break ground on. If I get around to it, I’ll scan and post a copy of the email.

I withstood many acts of bullying before the mobbing started. For example, after my car was vandalized about a year before the mobbing began, I got security cameras. This is legal and was common in my neighborhood. Holmquist and Kaseburg used them to attempt to ward off trespassers onto the NE 130th beach when as they sought to assert control over the lot they’d already legally claimed. Lots of home owners in Seattle use them. I’m from a metropolitan area much bigger and more dangerous than Seattle and had never even thought of installing security cameras there, not even when I was robbed. But the nastiness and bullying in this upscale neighborhood made it clear that I had to protect myself. As a renter and a woman living alone, it was clear that I was regarded as a target and that anything I owned, including my legal contract to rent a home in this neighborhood, was considered common property and in the public domain.

When my landlords refused to give in to complaint after complaint by the obviously troubled captain of the neighborhood watch, and when I failed to move out after the onset of what seemed to be organized construction-related harassment after ground was broken for a new home next door to her, she posted a cardboard sign of some 3′ by 8′ or more in front of her house, positioning it close to the street to ensure it would attract the attention of all who passed by. Within a day or two, she added my address to the sign that already addressed me by name in  letters at least a foot tall. The sign read: “STOP VIDEOTAPING US.”

“Us” was an appropriation of the “we,” the “we” of some community this woman claimed to represent. The best of bullying efforts, at least those that aspire to spectacle in the public square, should not be done alone.

“Videotaping” was a reference to the security cameras I had installed after the vandalism. After reading the law on the use of such cameras, I had purchased and carefully aimed several cameras at my yard, the driveway that led to the steps to my door, and the parking and right-of-way areas in front of my home. I had angled them to ensure they did not point “into” anyone’s home. But in this neighborhood, my attempt to protect myself with security cameras was treated as criminal. For several weeks, the captain of the neighborhood watch constantly put her sign outside, gossiping about it with passersby and indicating me and my home. Cars drove by, a few occupants even gesticulating at my security camera in support of the sign. I was horrified and left a message on the Seattle Police website asking if it was legal for her to put my name and address on such a sign. This public bullying that included my identity and house number seemed to me to invite other acts of violence against me.

Within weeks, I had been intimidated into removing cameras I knew to be legal and that my landlords supported. Immediately after the the cameras were removed, one of the hoaxes that became characteristic of the early days of the mobbing occurred: A fake stakeout of my home.

This was one of several times early in the mobbing when I felt so uncomfortable that I packed a bag and left. This first time I left for a day. Within weeks, I left for several days and wound up staying at a hotel with my cat who began having serious asthma attacks not long after the the constant harassment began to be funneled into the house. At that time, in a frequent hoax attended by mewing, they would say that they’d entered my home to kill my cat or that they’d already killed her. I suppose it was supposed to induce panic in me or make me rush home from work and lose my job. They needn’t have bothered; I lost my Microsoft contract to the bot hoax within two months of the onset of the mobbing.

They soon added the repeating statement, “I killed your cat,” as a keynote to the harassment; it was intended to trigger what the voice of the one of the mobbers (who sounded amazingly like the girlfriend of the owner of the south mobbing house) said was a “friction point.” I gathered this meant it was supposed to bring me to an emotional crisis after which I would leave my home for good.

My beloved cat died that first year of the mobbing and I was monitored, stalked and harassed through the harrowing series of asthma attacks that led to her death and after as I attempted to grieve her loss. This is why I support charges of animal cruelty being brought against the mobbers in addition to all other charges they deserve for the crimes they have committed. And at that time I vowed—yes, it was pretty much a vow—to see these people arrested and prosecuted.

The fake stakeout was all set up by the time I locked the door behind me and started down the steps to the driveway. From the north, I heard a stage whisper: “She’s leaving the house. She’s got a backpack and a bag.” It was said as though reporting my movements to a detective. It wouldn’t take long before I would come to consider this “stakeout” part of the drive to criminalize my tenancy and to convince me to flee. When it comes to real estate mobbing, the thinking about how to get rid of tenants seems to be, “If you chase them, they will flee.”

A few of the cars in the “parade” of vehicles passing by on those weekend days that spring when the nasty co-captain of the neighborhood watch held street-side court in all her malicious glory, have frequently appeared at both of the mobbing houses since the mobbing began, begging the question of whether the intended public shaming was an event in the mobbing before I realized I was being mobbed, that is, before they let me know they were eavesdropping on my every act in the privacy of my home, before they began babbling as they listened to ensure I was aware of them, before they began harassing me out of my quiet enjoyment day-in and day-out within and without my home.

That bullying is a problem in this neighborhood, one that is intrinsic to property, is apparent in many smaller incidents. Like recently, when a home owner told me that the seller of his house showed up saying she’d heard that someone had made an unfavorable comment about the construction of the house and demanded to know who it was. She informed the buyer that she would find out who made the remark and sue.

Another owner told me that as soon as they moved into their home on the lake and went out to prune the bushes bordering their property one weekend morning, the neighbors called the police to say they were trespassing. Theatrics like these are the precursor to legal bullying and lawsuits. The complaint was followed by an adverse possession lawsuit whose goal seemed to be to shave a few feet off their property and qualify for a dock. The worth of a house with a dock is substantially greater than one without. The property was soon sold without a dock, when the lawsuit failed to supply the requisite footage.

Still another owner told me that when he spoke to a new owner of a lakeside house who was being harassed by his neighbor, he cautioned the new owner to guard against adverse possession lawsuits by clearly marking and guarding the bounds of his property. He told me he warned the home owner, “[Don’t] give them an inch.”

These are only a few stories of the nastiness surrounding property along Lake Washington, but you get the picture. Bullying around property abounds in this privileged neighborhood of increasingly unaffordable houses run amok with real estate agents, developers and other small-time speculators.

Racketeering can be viewed as a criminal form of bullying. And real estate mobbing, an organized crime that constitutes racketeering, can mean bullying in the courtroom as well as in the home.

“Threats and Bullying by Prosecutors,” a 2014 article by Bennett L. Gershman in Loyola University Chicago Law Journal, examines the connection between racketeering and the bullying by U.S. prosecutors who have the “ability to threaten, intimidate, and embarrass anyone—defendants, witnesses, lawyers—without any accountability, or apology.” This, Gershman writes, “is the conduct of a bully.” (http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1979&context=lawfaculty, p. 102) In one of the subject cases, a county prosecutor in Arizona went so far as to file a Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”) conspiracy complaint against four judges and the county legislature for “a pattern of racketeering activities” that included:

… “intimidating and retaliating” against against county prosecutors and law enforcement personnel, “threatening and extorting” the county prosecutor and his wife, and “corruptly seeking to deny prosecutors their license to practice law. (p. 111)

I note that RICO, adopted as federal law in 1970, is considered “a highly effective tool for prosecuting mobsters,” according to Wikipedia (American Mafia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Mafia#Games). This is because of its focus on dismantling the criminal organization alongside its provisions for “extended criminal penalties for acts performed” on behalf of the organization.

Gershman remarks that “Despite the increased attention in U.S. society to the incidence of bullying and the harm inflicted by bullies, it is surprising that so little attention has been given to the conduct of prosecutors in using threats and bullying.” (p. 117) As a victim of an organized crime that has emerged from a bullying situation, I would have to add that while the bullying of children is now receiving quite a bit of attention and is seen as potentially criminal, the bullying of adults is ignored as civil. This makes it very difficult to get prosecution of cases like mine where bullying that is ignored escalates into cyber-crime, extortion, blackmail and racketeering.

Bullying someone out of their home is criminal, no matter how you do it. This is why it is important, when real estate mobbing falls into the realm of organized crime, that it be addressed as racketeering. The real estate mobbers who are mobbing me have clearly expected me to go for civil remedies because their criminal methods of harassment are difficult to prove. And the cautious real estate mobber does not take those with money as “targets”; this mitigates exposure to civil suits. Developers who use the services of real estate mobbers bank on their crimes remaining unchecked.

Gershman cautiously criticizes the “heavy-handed treatment of uncooperative grand jury witnesses” as “ethically troubling” (p. 115) but admits that in such cases the prosecutor has a legal basis to threaten the witnesses to “reveal truthful information about criminal wrongdoing” and that the “threats and bullying tactics would probably pass the legitimacy test.” He concludes the threats that are questionable are those “forcing persons to waive rights, retaliating after the exercise of rights, and publicly shaming them.” These kinds of non-prosecutorial threats are present in the “Save the Beach” campaign as well as antecedent to my own mobbing.

Threats that have no legal basis or justification, or that are used for self-serving purposes, on the other hand, are considered by the writer to be “beyond the pale.” These unjustified threats, made by the voices of invisible harassers, impostor prosecutors who declare themselves to be or to “represent” traffic cops, attorneys, landlords or “the mob,” threats that are “abusive, humiliating, and involve the gratuitous infliction of harm,” are what the crime of real estate mobbing is all about.

There is a strong historic connection between property and the bullying of the mob. By “the mob,” I mean, the real mob, not the criminal real estate speculators who are either paying for tenant harassers to “clear” me or doing it themselves, but The “Mafia” Mob. I’m sure the mobbers would like me to think they are the Mob; they have declared themselves to be “The Mob,” sometimes tentatively (“We think we’re the mob,” and “We’re the closest thing to the mob you’ll ever know”), but my guess is that they identify themselves in this manner to scare me, that it is yet another hoax in a parade of hoaxes intended to trick me out of my rights and out of my home. And I hope I’ve reached the right conclusion, because if they are in fact The Mob, things don’t look so good for me.

I tend to believe they’re what they look like—a bunch of scumbag criminal real estate speculators or those who work for them. Maybe, if I’m lucky, The Mob will sue the scum mobbing me for impersonation.

Back to The Mob and property, when prohibition ended in 1933, the Mafia branched out into a slew of other industries, including construction. Gaining control of labor unions, they extended their reach to labor racketeering. Infiltration of unions like the Teamsters and the International Longshoreman’s Association allowed them to control not only labor but construction. According to Wikipedia, construction projects in New York could not go forward without approval of the Five Families.

With “mobbers” who flatter themselves with comparisons to The Mob, it’s reasonable to assume they claim a strong connection to labor. Some of the recurrent statements in the mobbing harassment certainly do (“We want to build on it. Someone wants to build on it.”). And based on the quickness with which the crew of one developer started in on bullying me from their project across the street probably two years before that developer made an offer on my home, I’d say there’s a lot of back-scratching going on. I remember a retired real estate agent who told me that the crew working the lot next to her home, not far from my own, were harassing her and her partner. “There’s always harassment when there’s construction,” she said. One night early in the mobbing, a time when I tried to “talk” to the mobbers, one of them struck a similar note with the declaration, “The industry is built on it!”

This being the case, and based on the appearance of some of the men showing up to the mobbing houses on either side of me, I can imagine that in exchange for the promise of work on a construction project, construction workers might be willing to pinch-hit on harassing a tenant off of a lot that a developer wants cleared for construction, especially if the developer’s projects have supported them in the past. The same goes for real estate agents who have ongoing relationships with developers, following them from lot to lot across a city. The behavior that became clear to me as harassment surfaced with the breaking of ground on the construction project of a developer who later made an unsuccessful offer on my residence and who, with his real estate agents, wrote defamatory letters about my presence in this neighborhood, stating outright that I was the reason for the fall-through of an offer on the house he built. Within six months or so, I became aware that I was being “mobbed.”

Real estate mobbing is the kind of organized crime that is unlikely to be exposed without a grand jury. Grand juries are appropriate in cases of organized crime where witnesses are slow to come forward and are more likely to tell their stories in the secrecy of a grand jury room. In an organized crime whose goal is to quietly and criminally bully a legal resident out of her home in a manner that denies her the probable cause the police require to initiate an investigation, a grand jury is an appropriate way to investigate potential crimes through the production of documents and the testimony of witnesses. As with civil forfeiture, a penalty I have suggested is appropriate for the owners of properties from which mobbers bully those residing on the lots they want to acquire, no charges are required to be brought for a grand jury to be convened. A grand jury allows for the establishment of probable cause; civil forfeiture allows for penalties in cases where charges may not be feasible.

I believe that real estate mobbing, a crime acknowledged in parts of Europe such as Spain, is widely practiced but not well known in the United States and that the hoaxes and other crimes of mobbing intentionally hide its true nature as forced eviction. Frightened and intimidated by a crime inside a crime inside yet another, victims surrender their rights and flee. As the mobbers once gleefully declared while harassing me, this is “clearing by smearing.” And based on what I have seen around me, by the numbers of people coming and going from the mobbing houses around me and by the associations of real estate developers and speculators with my neighborhood watch, I believe there is a supportive network of those who engage in the practice, at the expense of people like me, people who seem like good victims for one reason or another—age or isolation, race, gender, sexual preference or identity, or economic status. This is an organized crime of racketeering in real estate.

The real estate mobbers have called it a “property war,” the assault they’ve been waging against me, the single female renter of an older home dwarfed by more modern and expensive homes on either side. It’s a war that is, in effect, a criminal proxy for an adverse possession lawsuit or forced sale that is not possible because of my stubbornness in maintaining the property line and watching out for my landlord’s interests, and because of the care with which I have maintained my tenancy, going further than most renters would to look after my home and my landlords’ property. The “property war” satisfies the “bloodlust” of the neighborhood watch by substantially damaging my life for insisting on the legal rights that they disparage, and it forwards the acquisitive goals of the developers and speculators who are the cronies of the neighborhood watch or its members, for other properties to develop.

As I mentioned in a recent post on Marc Goodman’s book Future Crimes, real estate mobbing a tenant is not as messy as a horse’s head in the bed and less likely to be charged.

The City of Seattle must mount an investigation that escalates to the FBI. If this is not possible, as a victim of a predatory crime against which I’ve been denied an investigation, a crime that likely often occurs but has not yet been recognized for what it is in states across the country, I request that a grand jury be convened.

Let’s make sure they don’t get away with it.

 

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One response

  1. I dealt with this bullying on a slightly higher scale. My neighborhood has seen various real estate developers who bully residents from their homes. They actually attempted to condemn one. One neighbor had their house fall due to the construction next to their home. The jerks who own the property next to mine excavated 10 feet down and struck my house with their equipment while i was home. Because they have money and I don’t there is nothing I can do to fight them. I am stuck. I will not sell my house to a shotty developer but they will continue to walk all over me. It is a shame nothing can be done to stop them.

    Like

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