The Seattle Police Department visited me the other day. I didn’t invite them. And I’m pretty sure any attorney would have told me to not to speak to them outside of her presence. But I haven’t quite yet retained an attorney, and it didn’t immediately occur to me to turn them away, not even when I asked what they wanted and the male officer glibly said that their unit “gives aid.” During the hour or so the two officers and the “social worker” they said always comes with them stood in my home, it was suggested to me no less than three times that I might find it easier to cope with my “stress” and this “stressful time” if I had someone to “talk to.” These suggestions that I should see a shrink came chiefly from the male officer. The social worker pretty much said nothing; perhaps she was observing (me). The female officer distinguished herself by suggesting that the attorney I’d talked to about representing me, might be overcharging me. Actually, what she said, I believe, is that he might be “taking” me. I’ll be sure to pass her opinion along to my attorney.
Being real estate mobbed by my “neighbors” has tested my incredulity, teaching me that things I formerly believed to be impossible are not, for example, that it’s possible to criminally harass one individual in a crowd without creating witnesses. The condescension of the SPD officers who came to my door last week, however, remains difficult to believe. Perhaps what they were really here for, was to get some sound bites that would allow them to close a complaint I made about how police stood back and did nothing while civil harassment in my neighborhood evolved into a criminal neighborhood bullying situation. At any rate, in the course of the hour or so that I wasted out of my working day to speak to them, it became clear that their visit was less than altruistic. They may well have been collecting information they will use to defend their lack of interest in the rather obviously development-related bullying of a middle-aged female tenant who moved into a neighborhood afflicted with the nastiest of neighborhood watches. And perhaps their best defense will be to swallow the line of the mobbers and insist that I must be insane.
I’ve recently written that because of these last years of being real estate mobbed here in northeast Seattle, I no longer expect to be treated neutrally by the Seattle Police, certainly not by any officer from Seattle’s North Precinct, which serves a more conservative population than the one I belonged to in my fifteen or so years on Capitol Hill. Before, what I knew about police misconduct was abstract; it came less from my own experiences with them than from learning about police bias or brutality from the media. But now, after years of trying to get help from SPD, I can honestly say that I haven’t had a single good experience with any officer from North Precinct. They can’t even get my name right; numerous of them seem to be incompetent at writing reports or correctly representing the “facts” they put into their reports. And yet, those are the reports that represent us when police incidents are disclosed, those are the reports from which investigators gather evidence, and it is from those reports that prosecutors draw up criminal charges.
Even though I did not at first know that what was happening to me was a real estate mobbing, it’s been almost three years that I’ve lived with near constant harassment delivered over whatever means is available to the mobbers at the time: public address systems, other people’s cell phones, any wired computer with sound on. I wouldn’t have survived this long in this situation if I had not been willing to spend time considering what was happening, researching the things I could find information on, and experimenting to confirm my conclusions or based on suggestions given me by another. I was determined not to be harassed out of my home, so I was willing to do these things. At least, I hoped I could survive as I did these things, long enough to get help. By the time I began blogging about the mobbing, I had come to believe that the only thing that would stop the mobbing was the intervention of the police. At least, this appeared to be the case unless at least one of the owners of the south and north mobbing houses had a compelling reason to sell his home and the home was sold to someone who was not involved in real estate scams and not given to joining a band of neighborhood bullies cum felons.
Responding to this situation by considering, researching and writing about what it seemed to be, is second nature to me, a reader and writer whose foundational degree is in history. Reading, researching and writing is what historians do. All of my academic experiences have emphasized research, whether in constructing a documentary narrative on 16mm film or creating the thesis statement for a seminar paper. Without books—research—I would not be able to write.
There came a time in my life when I began asking people how it was that they knew what they claimed and so confidently spoke of. I learned people often have no good reason for the assertions they make. I found out that while most people are too lazy to “look it up,” they remain unwilling to admit ignorance. The inability to say “I don’t know,” is prominent in tech where respect is accorded based on an individual’s store of obscure knowledge, where points are subtracted if you have to “look it up,” and where “intentional vagueness” can be a necessary feature of technical description that aspires to reasonable accuracy. The inability to say “I don’t know” has unfortunate effects, ultimately confusing human communication as well as spreading misinformation and perpetuating false beliefs.
Sometimes, saying that someone is crazy is like saying, “I don’t know.” When we roll our eyes and say someone is loco en la cabeza, what we’re saying is: I don’t share his experience. I lack the domain of knowledge necessary to evaluate what he says. I don’t have that perception. We dismiss others as crazy when we don’t understand. Sometimes this is for good reason. But sometimes we don’t care or want to understand. This is just day-to-day living when it comes to interpersonal relationships bounded by communication that is sometimes tenuous and must constantly be negotiated. But when the words, the attitude, or the too often expressed disdain belong to representatives of public agencies funded by public money, it is not only inappropriate; it is unforgivable.
Perhaps my expectations of the police, at least those on patrol, are too high. They have limited time on calls and the routine work of writing reports weighs against real consideration of a complex situation. But then, perhaps bias also weighs against the proper consideration of the words of a middle-aged woman who rents, especially when the officer has routine contact with home owners and a neighborhood watch organization actively engaged in maligning the residents of certain homes in the neighborhood. This in and of itself, is something SPD should have taken note of; they had every opportunity since the neighborhood watch itself copied a North Precinct Community Police Team (CPT) officer on email about what it might take to get certain renters to leave the neighborhood. This one correspondence offered an opportunity North Precinct CPT should have taken to delve into the activities and intentions of a neighborhood watch that had already declared war on legal residents. Neighborhood watches that do such things act against the interests of their cities and neighborhoods, and are a liability to both. And police who look the other way when neighborhood watch captains freely talk about their plots to get rid of renters make SPD complicit in their bad deeds.
Adult bullying crimes are dangerous. I hope the one that victimizes me finally ends in the arrest of those who have continued for nearly three years in their drive to expel me from my home, but this is an escalated situation in which I, the victim, am deadlocked with people who seem unwilling to take “No” for an answer. Anything could happen. SPD must act to protect all citizens, and especially those who are the minority in their neighborhoods.
None of us are served by a police force whose response to a victim’s claims is to regard them as crazy. Victims of crimes should not have to be interviewed by a hostile police force. And from my perspective as the victim of a continuous crime that is based on the use of trade knowledge and technology, it’s certainly not the way to prevent or solve crime. If my response to a first-person historical account was to dismiss the eyewitness as crazy I wouldn’t be much of an historian, though I might be a Holocaust denier. If my response to a software developer’s explanation of his program was to tell him it was impossible, I wouldn’t be working long. Telling someone who claims to be a victim of a cybercrime that she’s crazy is like saying, “I have no idea what you’re talking about, so I refuse to believe it.” A cop who responds poorly to victim claims that he does not understand and will not consider, is a cop who sweeps crime under the rug.
When the mobbing first opened, there was what I decided later could have been a hoax, in which a green Kia, a Cube or somesuch, pulled into the driveway of the south mobbing house and I heard a woman’s voice talking to those inside and asking, “Can you get me on her router.” Conversation ensued about how I had taken the router offline and in the days that followed I “overheard” multiple discussions in the mobbing harassment from the south mobbing house in which female voices would say that they had left “a back door open” on my machine that they wanted to close. It turned out that the franchise family girlfriend and the rest of the neighbors were hackers!
Shutting down the Comcast router in late spring of 2014 was my first response to what I’m pretty certain was another hoax, that the neighbors had put an Internet “bot” on my computer. That’s the hoax that lost me a long-term contract at Microsoft when I attempted to protect the company by telling my manager about the “bot,” changing machines, and going to Microsoft Security. Ultimately, the goal of the hoaxes was to convince me to leave my home; after all, no one wants to live next door to hackers. (Later on in the mobbing, the mobbing harassment would include routine statements about how the hackers in the house on one side of me were giving me to the detectives in the house on the other side, and then the detectives were giving me back to the hackers. Nothing but fun and games in real estate mobbing in this nasty northeast neighborhood of Seattle.)
I called SPD and reported I’d heard my neighbors talking about getting on my router. The officer who showed up to deal with that one, although he was quickly reassured by the coincidental presence of the owner of the south mobbing house in his driveway as he approached, told me there was no “probable cause.” This was a first lesson in how difficult it would be to get help from police. Given my experiences, I can only imagine how difficult it must be for victims of hoaxes to report even one, between any humiliation the victim might feel in addition to the difficulty of making police believe any improbable details. At least the officer who responded to my call about the router gave me an acceptable reason for his inaction. At least he didn’t seem to need to smirk and insult the victims of invisible crimes. Though it does beg the question of what is “probable cause” for digitized crimes that do not involve obvious textual or file-based changes, especially lurking crimes like cell phone harassment that do not involve an easily logged call, or camfecting on a baby monitor.
For those of you who one day face the difficulty of reporting invisible crimes that the police are not equipped to deal with, just remember, when you see skepticism in the eyes of the officer, when he smirks or asks if you’re on “meds,” he’s attempting to hide his lack of understanding by ridiculing you. Any time a police officer denies the victimhood required to report a crime by ridiculing a victim as “crazy,” what you should hear is what the officer should have said: “I don’t know.”
Real estate mobbing is a tech crime. An attorney I talked to recently was quick to offer the general consensus that the Seattle Police Department is clueless when it comes to handling tech crimes. Given that statement, I did a bit of poking around last night and found some interesting discussions about the fact that tech crimes are a game-changer for the police investigative techniques the world over. In Cybercrime and the Police (eds W. Ph. Stol and J. Jansen, Eleven International Publishing, 2013, https://www.nhl.nl/sites/default/files/files/Bedrijf-en-Onderzoek/Lectoraten-Documenten/Cybercrime_and_the_Police.pdf), Henk Klap and Danielle de Groot remark that the term cyber-crime is no longer useful.
Cybercrime, both in the narrow and broad sense, can no longer be seen as an exceptional, isolated phenomenon. Rather it is part of the whole range of criminal behaviours of perpetrators. The use of the term cybercrime is therefore no longer tenable. It is fundamentally incorrect to classify crime on the basis of the means used. (p. 7)
Klap and de Groot reframe technology-enabled crimes as “digital crimes,” the outfall of the digitization of society and a transformation reflected in the nature of crime worldwide.
The crime of harassing people out of their homes existed before digitization, but with digitization, real estate mobbers have a new market of small-time, unscrupulous real estate speculators and “investors,” probably some of the same ones who told me in bedtime harassment early in my own mobbing that “the police don’t investigate cell phone harassment.” Real estate mobbers use digitalization to sell mobbing to those nasty enough or greedy enough to try it. Without tech, this “digitization,” real estate mobbing would probably not be nearly as attractive to nasty neighborhood watches and their unscrupulous friends as a “white-glove” crime for which they’ll never be prosecuted.
Technology enables the abstraction of the crime from the criminal; this abstraction is the root of the mobbers’ shell game and a key element in conning the victim into submission. How can the owners of the mobbing houses be responsible for words the victim cannot prove they spoke. So long as the harassers (mobbers) work from inside the houses flanking the victim house, how can the victim convince the court that their words were meant for her? If there are no cars in the driveways, or if the victim continues to hear harassment from the flanking houses after their owners are seen leaving in their vehicles, clearly the victim must be imagining their voices on either side of her. It takes months before the victim of real estate mobbing begins to make sense of the slowly whirring window fans, the satellite phone contractor and the cell phone harassment, the constant stream of vehicles in and out of the driveways of the mobbing house, the movement of an exhaust vent so it is centered opposite the half-light of the kitchen window, the garage door frequently left open, or the fact that whenever he is outside the mobbers almost inevitably follow.
Mobbing is meant to confuse not only the victim but the police as well. Real estate mobbing seems constructed to capitalize on police impatience that weighs against the obscure and the complex. In my case in which I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person that a neighborhood watch gone rogue and some criminal speculators have tried to harass out of her home, there seems to be a decided refusal by patrol officers to admit ignorance and ask precinct detectives if they’ve ever heard of such a thing, though a private investigator was quick to tell me that he’d heard of people being harassed out of their homes as I seemed to be (for things, he said, like “not gardening,” although that sounds like nothing more than an excuse for a land-grab by some scumbucket speculators to me). There also seems to be a lack of interest on the part of police to consult with FBI contacts who almost certainly have greater familiarity with obscure tech-based monitoring and stalking crimes and probably are familiar with what it looks like when someone is harassed out of their home. Moreover, when officers write so poorly that they cannot transcribe victim and witness statements without errors of fact and even of identity, the Rube Goldberg-like causal chain and complexities of mobbing will surely elude them.
According to Rutger Leukfeldt, “Features of digitalized crime are, for example, massiveness, speed, dynamics, [and] the blurring of boundaries and locations” (“Crime in a Digitized Society,” Cybercrime and the Police, p. 9). The mobbers’ gambit capitalizes on just such blurred boundaries and locations. Abstraction of identity is a prominent feature of mobbing; impersonation is another, as well as a common theme in cyberbullying (coincidentally called “mobbing”). During the first phases of the mobbing that were dominated by elaborate hoaxes and wild stories, the mobbers played back phone calls from my mother and a friend, they appeared to edit conversations I’d had with my landlords for use in their own narrative of constructive eviction, and they attempted to impersonate people from my past. “This is a professional real estate hit,” they crowed in mobbing harassment at the outset of the mob, as though they were the Anonymous hacktivists (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anonymous_(group)) of the house-flipping crowd. They spoke from blurred identities with statements like, “I am or I represent [the owner of the south mobbing house],” “We’re all attorneys here,” and “Who am I?” They attempted to dissuade me of any illusion that they would be held accountable for their words by dividing the recitation of a lengthy statement into phrases spoken by a series of different voices. The confusion the mobbers attempt to create in the victim is all about blurred boundaries. And then, taking the blurring of boundaries further, the mobbers shapeshift identities, claiming to “represent” or to be the persons in whose voices they speak, playing the roles of imposter attorneys, traffic cops, or persons from the past of the mobbing victim, and then transposing roles with their victim as they play aggrieved members of the community while accusing the victim of thought crimes as well as actual crimes ranging from check-kiting, to embezzlement, to child molestation.
From the perspective of probable cause or lack thereof, digitization provides a blurring of location as elusive to jurisprudence as it is to police. How can the victim hear harassment from people who aren’t home? Did the voice come from a computer (VoIP) or from a phone (land line, cell phone, VoIP or satellite)? Is the radio the victim hears a device or an application? And if the victim claims to be followed by a drone, how can the voices be said to have a location at all? Perhaps such voices are transmitted from another location, perhaps even from another throat whose sound has been altered by a voice changer (another kind of “avatar” not uncommonly used by hackers attempting to hide their identities), or the unknown voice of a hired mobber who phones in harassment transmitted to a speaker-enabled access point or hidden intercom system. In the same way that the mobbers ask the victim, “Who am I?” to assess the success of the con, they might ask “Where am I?” in this whodunit of disembodied voices where no one is where they sound.
The unfamiliar phenomenology of mobbing in which devices, inanimate objects and dumb surfaces begin to talk, can lead the victim to the erroneous conclusion that she is being followed by a physical person. Suddenly the stalker is in the vehicle behind her, or is it in the vehicle coming towards her—no, it’s the one that turned off as soon as she spotted it in her rear-view mirror. At the opening of my own mobbing I went through phases where I would pull over onto a side street or make abrupt U-turns to elude followers while the mobbers babbled merrily on, chortling over my maneuvers and (more than likely) pretending that someone named “Eddie” was following me.
For a while, I assumed the reason the mobbers seemed to be able to see me at intersections was because they used the traffic cameras; perhaps this was around the time they fed me the line that they had access to some Google Earth backend that gave them a real-time view from the sky. Either way, I had never been one for black helicopter conspiracy theories and it took more than a year-and-a-half of being followed during bicycle rides as the FAA promulgated new rules on drone registration before I concluded that an appropriately equipped drone or surveillance drone was, in fact, a more reasonable possibility than being followed by some unlicensed detective in a vehicle with his buddy hanging out the window, tracking me across endless obstacles with a parabolic speaker all the while (Top Surveillance Drones Review: Best models you can buy right now, http://mydronelab.com/best-pick/surveillance-drones-for-sale.html). This is where, in mobbing, the mobbers combine unstable identity with unstable (mobile) location as a last-ditch gambit to make their victim believe he’s lost his mind.
Mobbing, in and of itself, is considered the province of borderlines, personalities suffering from an unstable sense of self (Borderline personality disorder, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borderline_personality_disorder). And mobbing, a hoax, inside a con, inside a scam, attempts to locate a naive victim who will be suckered by the dichotomy between the beam-formed sound and ventilation transports that are used to transmit the disembodied voices of the mobbers to the victim, a victim who will accept their suggestions that he is “hearing voices” and must be “paranoid schizophrenic.” It’s a crude scam; I would hope that most of us can tell the difference between the voice of a criminal and our own thoughts. But the schism between the two seeks, albeit crudely, to emulate the severing of the schizophrenic mind from his body (“a mind more or less tenuously linked to a body”—R.D. Laing, The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness), and therefore to the world around him, the lack of “mine-ness” that leads to the schizophrenic experience that his thoughts belong to others, that others are inserting thoughts into his mind, or even that he does not exist.
Between the lack of understanding of what schizophrenia is and the lack of knowledge of the capabilities of beam-focused sound to isolate a person in a crowd for verbal abuse, those who should be able to see through the scam, lacking an explanation for the phenomena that the victim of mobbing describes, may be taken in. This includes the police. And even if they quickly see that whatever the mobbing victim suffers from is not schizophrenia, those who are in a position to aid the victim of mobbing may attempt to diagnose him instead of assisting him in getting authorities to investigate the crime. After all, this is what they’ve been taught to do. Diagnostics redeem the disparaged “pseudo-science” of psychology from quackery; the overarching task of the therapeutic professional in an allopathic medical model is to classify and name the patient’s disease.
Rather than simply mobbing from remote locations, the real estate mobbers of northeast Seattle prefer the more controlled scenario afforded by flanking the victim house and exploiting the shortened attack vectors and immediate access to the victim that proximity offers. This combination of real-time physical presence with open neighbor harassment protected by shifting identities and anonymous means and modalities is potent, setting the stage for the use of police provocation strategies that can help to criminalize a tenancy and compel a “reluctant owner” to sell as well as creating an emotional pressure cooker for a victim who is entirely at risk and has nowhere to run.
The “faceless nature” of cyber-crime further complicates its reporting, according to Cameron S.D. Brown of Australian National University (“Investigating and Prosecuting Cyber Crime: Forensic Dependencies and Barriers to Justice,” International Journal of Cyber Criminology, Vol 9, Issue 1, January – June 2015). Brown cites numerous factors including a lack of confidence in the ability of the police to investigate cyber-crime. She concludes, “the prevailing tendency for underreporting makes cyber crime offending increasingly less visible.” And it is this lack of visibility that makes its incidence less believable.
Citing an increase in “classical offences with a digital aspect” and the corresponding demand for police to handle a large number of offenses that have a “digital component” (“Crime in a Digitized Society,” Cybercrime and the Police, p. 19), Rutger Leukfeldt stresses that knowledge of “digital aspects should therefore be present in all levels of the organization.”
In the last months, it became clear that at least the patrol officers of SPD’s North Precinct were neither prepared to investigate an attempt by “neighbors” to harass a legal tenant out of her home, nor did they seem interested in involving a detective who might be more knowledgeable or might request consultation or assistance from the FBI. Based on this observation, I concluded that police ignorance was a major stumbling block to my getting help. Other critical factors I have noted include bias and forgetting the training that should make it easy to recognize a neighborhood bullying situation or to listen well and then following up on what I attempted to report. Of course, bureaucratic constraints are probably a limiting factor constraining the time police can spend on any one call, or the information they are willing to take to include in the report they must file. But given that I was given the run-around and referred back and forth between North Precinct Community Police Team (CPT) and patrol officers, the lack of interest in helping a tenant who complained of harassment from the neighborhood watch likely involved bias as well as advance defamation by the nasty neighborhood watch lady and her cronies. Police should know better than to believe a known “chronic complainer” (as Parking Enforcement dubbed her), who so clearly had an ax to grind. Moreover, although the mission of the CPT is to involve itself in the community in a more meaningful way than a patrol officer can, the team chose to ignore a suppressive neighborhood watch rather than correct their excesses.
The escalation of neighborhood bullying to the near-three years of a criminal property mobbing could have been avoided by routine police work. Even now, the real estate mobbing could probably still be uncovered, and not by drastic and time-consuming measures like tailing those who may be involved but instead by police and prosecutor interviews. Alternatively, I have long held that a grand jury might be required to free people to talk. One way or another, something should have been done long before I spent years of my life in this situation. It should still be done now, not only to restore my civil rights and liberties and to repair at least some of the damage that has been done to me and to my life, and not only for the sake of study by criminologists, but because—at least in philosophy—we are not a country that believes that what has happened to me should happen to anyone.
Research reveals a “dearth of digital knowledge among police officers.” This extends to the United States as well, ranging from the “ever-improving capabilities of the FBI and the Secret Service to the essentially worthless efforts of local police forces in isolated rural locations” (“Policing a Digitized Society: The State of Affairs in the Netherlands in 2013,” Cybercrime and the Police, p. 63). To move beyond this state of ignorance, the police will need to learn to say, “I don’t know,” and rather than disparaging the victim, they should consult with department detectives to find out.
This is a time when police departments should, if they do not already, instate technical officers who can answer questions about technology—crimes with a “digital aspect”—on the local level. Patrol officers are not qualified to say what is technically possible and it shouldn’t be necessary to escalate a curious report two levels—through detectives and then to FBI—to pose a question about the digital aspects of crime. Reports on crimes that appear to have “digital components” should require review by someone who either knows about obscure technologies or knows how to find out about them. For example, beam-focused sound technologies like the parabolic speaker have been around for decades. And techniques that are likely used in neighbor-mobbing—like using a shortwave radio and a linear antenna to put sound on a neighbor’s speakers—are old technology that is probably easily updated to leverage WiFi, streaming applications, and software-defined radio). At the least, a technology officer hired to support officers on patrol should be someone with access to databases on crimes having similar aspects. As “classical crimes” are recast as crimes involving technology, officers must be trained to adapt. Leukfeldt comments that the evolution of digital crime demands flexibility on the part of police:
[T]he police must respond to the changing nature of crime. The digital component plays an important role in an increasing number of crimes. The organization must be designed to deal with this. One should not think in terms of ‘cybercrimes’ and ‘non-cybercrimes’. More and more traditional crimes such as fraud, stalking and threats have (to greater or lesser extent) a digital look. Second, up-to-date knowledge is required to adequately respond tot he ever-changing digital environment. That requires flexibility, not only of the police organization but also of individual police officers. (“Crime in a Digitized Society,” Cybercrime and the Police, p. 19)
It is unconscionable, the years-long neglect of my situation as I continue to be victimized by round-the-clock harassment even in my own home from “neighbors” who are likely real estate investors who use “neighbor mobbing” techniques—surveillance and cyber-crime—to move in around and harass victims out of their homes. I have been reporting this crime of civil and human rights for years. If I am of sound mind and telling the truth, think about what I must have been though and about what I must still be going through.
Think about it. ▪