Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Carmel on the Case: Neighbor Nuisance
Fights between neighbors can get ugly, and one in Broward County got so bad the sheriff's department got involved, leaving two families crying foul. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the Case.
WSVN -- This was the beginning of an ugly bit of business between David and Deborah Westcott and their neighbors.
David Westcott: "Make me."
Wilder family friend: "You want me to do something to you?"
David Westcott: "Yeah, go ahead. Come on."
It was caught on a cell phone by a friend of the Wilder family.
The Westcotts and the Wilders lived across the street from each other in Flamingo Gardens, an otherwise peaceful Cooper City neighborhood.
Tim Wilder: "I'm just a generator mechanic, and I just want to keep my family safe, and I feel very uncomfortable now with this situation."
He's got kids and cars and toys at his house and a habit of parking vehicles in the street.
Tim Wilder: "We're not doing anything different than anybody else has been doing for 16 years."
But his neighbors, a BSO employee and a TSA employee, have complained to BSO about the noise and the parking.
Dave Westcott: "I've got an ongoing dispute with my neighbor. I've had the deputies out here twice today. I need another one out here now because he's parked on my lawn."
In less than a year, BSO officers have responded to these kinds of calls to the neighborhood 16 times.
Jim Leljedal, BSO: "On the one hand, it looks like we have adults who can't get along on the playground."
But spokesman Jim Leljedal says law enforcement has to take these kinds of disputes seriously because they can escalate.
Jim Leljedal: "We've seen people killed because their neighbor cut too much of their grass. Certainly we've seen people killed for less."
It appears the incident caught on the cell phone could have gotten much worse at any moment.
Tim Wilder: "Keep it up, Dave."
Dave Westcott: "You're trailer trash."
Tim Wilder: "Oh, good."
Dave Westcott: "You know what? You're trash."
Tim Wilder: "Put your hands on me, dude. Trailer trash. Go ahead, put your hands on me, dude, and we'll see what happens."
Dave Westcott: "Go ahead, put yours on me."
Tim Wilder: "I wouldn't even think about it."
Dave Westcott: "I wouldn't either."
Dave Westcott works for the TSA. By phone, he told me he was being harassed by Wilder, and that "in the frustration of the moment, you say all kinds of stuff."
Deborah Westcott works for BSO, in the communications department. A fact she has mentioned when calling to complain.
Deborah Westcott: "OK, I'm a BSO employee. I work at CDC. I'm being harassed by my neighbors."
BSO says she has received no special treatment in the handling of the complaints. She sent an e-mail that indicates "We didn't see the entire video" and that the incident started when Wilder confronted them.
Deborah Westcott: "Here comes a car, Dave."
Deborah Westcott says it was the culmination of months of noise from the Wilder's vehicles, and they're parking in the street, blocking her driveway as well as repeated harassment.
She wrote: "It got to the point I would check first before checking my mailbox to make sure no one from their family was outside for fear of being heckled and harassed. "
There is an option for neighbors who end up face-to-face. Nova Southeastern has an entire department aimed at conflict resolution. Dr. Judith McKay says it can help people settle disputes, from the workplace to the family to the neighbors.
Dr. Judith McKay: "There has to be a ceasing of hostilities before you can talk about any type of peace, before you can talk about, 'What do we do next?' so first cease fire in a war, whether it's a neighborhood war or an international war, and then let's start talking."
But it's too late for these neighbors. The Wilders have moved out.
Carmel Cafiero: "To some, that may mean the Westcotts won the war, but the fact is everybody loses here. Law enforcement wastes time, and two neighbors who might have been friends waste energy being enemies instead."
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