The drug dealer downstairs

Sketchy visitors at 3 a.m., stuff disappearing from the building: I think we've got a pusher for a neighbor

By Cary Tennis

Published October 3, 2012 10:59PM (EDT)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (Zach Trenholm/Salon)
(Zach Trenholm/Salon)


I live in a San Francisco apartment with fewer than 10 units and know all my neighbors at least conversationally.

My roommate, my girlfriend and I believe our downstairs neighbor has begun dealing drugs in the past year. While the evidence is somewhat circumstantial (lots of late night visitors, mostly on weekends, usually drunk, only staying for between 5-10 minutes), I've lived in a similar situation some years back, and know the signs.

This relatively new vocation of our neighbor's is creating real security and quality of life issues for our building.  In the past nine months, we've had two thefts, compared to none in the previous 20 years. Ours is a very secure building, and in both incidents, the perpetrator had access to areas only available to residents and their guests.  

Other issues include being regularly woken up in the wee hours, as our neighbor's visitor rings every doorbell to get in, or because drunk people in search of drugs are not good at being quiet.  Generally, his clientele seems to fall into the "really sketchy" category.  

Despite our attempts, our neighbor is not particularly friendly or approachable and we've witnessed him being extremely volatile on occasion.  We have not been specific about our suspicions but have mentioned his "friends" ringing our bell to him.  Still, not much has changed.

I have friends on the police force and am reasonably sure they'd help put an end to his activities.  Additionally, we believe our landlord is unaware he's taken over the apartment from the previous tenant, and would be inclined to boot him and put it back on the market. However, I am hesitant to do either of these things.

We're not looking to wreck his life, we just want the drug-dealing and its effects to cease.  Any thoughts?



Dear Semi-NORML,

As a tenant, you have the right to the peaceable enjoyment of your premises.

This right is not just a legal thing. It's a fundamental social value. We San Franciscans may have liberal views on drug policy but this is not about drug policy. This is about a tenant's right to peace and quiet. And it's about a possible criminal enterprise in the apartment under yours.

The fact that you don't want to wreck anyone's life shows that you have compassion and you care about others. But what about the several other tenants who are also being affected by this? They have rights, too, and their lives are being disrupted just like yours is. There's nothing selfish about taking steps to stop this. You're actually doing the rest of your neighbors a favor.

Ask your friends on the police force for advice. They will know how to proceed.

One more thing. If this guy has exhibited volatile behavior, and if his "sketchy" visitors are coming at all hours, he may be dealing meth. If he is dealing meth, you definitely don't want him in the building. Meth makes people crazy. And if he is selling meth, let's hope he's not also cooking meth, and if he is cooking meth, let's really hope he doesn't have a meth lab in his pants!

Cary Tennis

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