I was recently surfing the web when I ran across a Blog post by Dunwoody Working Girl about extreme neighbor conflicts as documented on 20/20 recently. You can view the episode from 20/20 at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39ZflPJDFGc&feature=player_embedded
Dunwoody Working Girl asks the question, “What is to prevent these types of extremes occurring here in Dunwoody?” Unfortunately, nothing can really prevent these types of incidents from happening unless one of the neighbors is willing to show some restraint and self control when faced with bad behavior by the other neighbor. Given enough time and bad behavior, this can be a difficult proposition.
I wish I could tell you that nasty neighbor fights do not occur in Dunwoody. Unfortunately, I can’t. We have those types of disputes in Dunwoody as do most communities. These disputes can happen over something really silly and last for years until one of the neighbors grows up or moves away. Fortunately, we have not had any neighbor disputes like the Hatfields & McCoys, although we have had disputes turn physical.
These disputes usually start over something simple like a tree being cut down on the property line, barking dogs, loud music, a dispute between children or a thousand other similar reasons. In most cases, there is nothing law enforcement can do. No law has been broken. Instead, the dispute is a civil matter that adults should be able to work out. However, if they are not able to work things out, law enforcement continues to get called by both neighbors as the dispute spirals out of control toward something much more serious. There are many examples across the country where neighbors end up getting arrested, or worse, end up killing each other.
I am not trying to minimize disputes arising from criminal acts committed by a neighbor. These should be reported to the police so appropriate actions can be taken.
I believe a lesson can be learned by all of us after viewing this 20/20 story and seeing the ridiculousness of most of these cases. These types of disputes usually start over something minor and then escalate from there. The key is to keep the dispute from escalating. In many cases, approaching your neighbor and talking to them about the issue will solve the problem. In rare cases it will not. If your neighbor does something really stupid to you or your family and is not willing to change or apologize, then you are left with a couple of options. You can follow the path of retaliation which will only escalate the situation or you can simply not respond. There is nothing wrong with turning the other cheek. In fact, this simple act may prevent a series of unfortunate events that may lead to serious unintentional consequences for you and for your neighbor. If the dispute currently rages, stop responding and maybe the circumstances will improve. If it doesn’t improve, it may be time to find somewhere else to live. In the end, is a dispute with your neighbor worth risking the sanity and safety of your family?