Willing or not, our lives have changed under lock down rules. There may be vast differences between the regulations in different states and countries, but all of us are spending more time at, or close to home.

If this was back in the idyllic good old days we would already have known everyone else in the neighborhood, but now the vast majority of Americans never formally meet their neighbors.

There’s just no time anymore to welcome new neighbors with a carefully arranged plate of home-baked goodies. In these privacy-obsessed, busy times the best we can do is a casual wave when you pass their driveway.

There are valid reasons for this withdrawal. Most parents work full time or even hold down more than one job. They have to guard their precious R&R time or risk burnout. Still, it’s horribly awkward to turn away that garrulous couple from two streets down when they keep gatecrashing your family gatherings.

It can be downright dangerous to ignore your neighbors because unsavory or even malicious actors may be living near you. They may look “normal” enough, but people react differently to these pressure-cooker times, and conditions may develop that make you and your children less safe.

10 Good Reasons Why You Should Know the People in Your Area

    • “Vexatious litigants” are people who sue others for fun or profit. It’s best to learn about this before you lend Mr. Next-Door your ladder for his roof repairs!
    • Noisy neighbors can make your life a misery with all-night parties or rowdy game nights.
    • Calculate this: (bored teenager) plus (overindulgent parents) plus (drone camera) equals (privacy invasion) plus (trespass).
    • Does something seem a little off or odd? Do strangers show up or make quick kerbside stops at all hours of the night? Do emaciated waifs or neglected pets slink around? Are there inordinate numbers of suspicious-acting bed-head inhabitants who won’t open the door when you knock? However cliched and melodramatic it may sound: don’t ignore your gut feelings.
    • You’d probably consider hiding grandma’s silverware when the new couple next door comes over if you knew he is a convicted petty thief.
    • Aggressive pets pose a grave threat to children. Well-trained dogs are rarely a problem, but certain dog breeds must have firm and “well-trained” owners. Is your next-door-neighbor a responsible pet owner, or does she insist on calling her new ASPCA pitbull rescue Mr. Fluffy despite obvious warning signs?
    • Does the new guy across the road lose his temper over reasonable requests for quiet time after 10 PM?
    • What about the friendly young couple who has scraped up multiple DUIs? A drinking and driving incident may follow.
    • Have you noticed constant fighting, crying, or screaming coming from one of the homes? Do the children or wive display bruises, unexplained injuries, or visible neglect? Domestic abuse is a silent worldwide epidemic.
    • Last but not least: An estimated 80% of sexual abuse never gets reported. You must guard against those perpetrators of sexual crimes who have managed to stay under the radar, or who have not been caught yet.

 

How to Vet the People in Your Community

First up, visit Family Watchdog for an area map with information about offenders in your vicinity. Each marker contains an offender’s photo and a short profile. Remember, sex offender registries are not perfect and some perpetrators may be able to stay under the radar.

Next, find out who lives where. You don’t need to know everything about everyone, but it is reasonable to want to know about possible criminal records, sexual violations, and driving violations or accidents.  At the very least, it’s a good idea to put a name to each address. Visit White Pages to find a neighbor’s name using their street address, and then go search for them online.

Online Search Tips

Usually, a quick and superficial online search should deliver quite a bit of information on almost everyone, and it may be sufficient to set your mind at rest. Use any, or several search engines, but take care to phrase your search terms using quotation marks around the name and last name.

You’ll end up with multiple profiles, so start narrowing your search. Use nicknames, previous addresses, employers, or any other personal details. The name plus telephone number will provide the most accurate results.

Next, add specific terms like “criminal record” or “sex offender” to the search, as criminal records are public information and are available online.

Are they Polite Internet Citizens?

Invite your neighbors to a bulletin board or chat forum where they can share events, recommendations, and alerts about burglaries or missing pets. Someone’s online behavior may warrant a more penetrating analysis.

Online behavior can be a major indicator of whether something’s amiss. Someone who is out there bullying people in cyberspace may well be a nuisance or even a danger.

Do a Little Social Media Stalking

A little superficial digging on social media platforms can uncover red flags. Now that you have the names and addresses, and possibly a phone number of the individual you are concerned about it should be fairly easy to find them on social media platforms.

If his profile is set to public you could get an impression of who his friends and relatives are, plus a broad idea about his lifestyle and other activities. If you have any concerns, or if his privacy settings prevent access, it may be time to dig even deeper.

Get a Complete Data and Media Profile

This is the fastest way to spot red flags. Most data aggregators can fetch information from every corner of the internet. Usually, search parameters include social security information, criminal records, property records, and employment records.

However, if you have some concerns, find a service that is powerful enough to fetch all of the “usual” information plus their social media activities and online behavior. Nuwber can move beyond public records to get information from social media platforms, online forums, news publication mentions, and a wealth of other information.

Does the Information Warrant Further Action?

Forewarned is forearmed, so if the comprehensive personal profile turns up anything alarming, you can take action right away.  You have the right to a safe environment, and your family always comes first.

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