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Updated on April 22, 2013

Once upon a time, the arrival of new neighbors was received with joy. It was the perfect opportunity to really get to know the people who lived next door. There were community BBQs, community garage sales, or simply talking on the streets with each other about every day things. However, the economical struggling, and the stressful times we have been living in for the past 10 years, has damaged our communications skills too. We are just too tired to talk, too busy to participate in community activities, and too worried working two jobs, so we can support our families.

It has been a gradual “disengagement”, from everything and everyone. We feel bad for someone's tragedy next door, but in the back of our mind the honest thought is: “Better them, than me” or “Sorry, I really don't have time to check what is going on with my neighbors, I have my own problems”.

I have done it, you have done it, just about everyone has done it at least once! The truth is that although we would like to get more involved with the people who surround us, we simply rather close our eyes, and ignore them.

There have been cases where there was even a child kidnapped next door for years, cases like that little girl who was kept captive, continuously raped, and was finally forced to have children with the abductor until she was in her 30's? Did anyone around that house even bother to notice how odd that situation was, where one little girl entered that house one day and years later there were 3 more little girls who apparently showed up out of nowhere?

What about the neighbors of the terrorists on 9/11? I doubt that any of their neighbors ever wondered why there was so much technology for a simple household, and why those neighbors were so anti-social? Apparently the clue is “quiet” neighbors, the kind who don't talk much, and don't socialize very much. It is perfectly normal that you want to keep certain level of privacy, After all it is our right! But what happens when this behavior is combined with other factors, like odd situations or threatening comments? When exactly would you become suspicious of someone?

In many scenarios, that quiet neighbor was a serial killer, sexual predator, or a terrorist. It seems like it has to take a tragedy to discover that the nice, polite, quiet neighbor next door, was nothing by a criminal. Don't take me wrong, it could perfectly be the case of someone that is extremely shy, or maybe even depressed, or why not? Simply antisocial. But let's face it, sooner or later, we'll get to know that person better, and we will be able to determine what the issue was.

I am talking about that new neighbor, the one who keeps his windows shut, and that will never invite us in. The one who never calls on the phone to anybody, the one who never leaves the house, or comes back immediately to check if someone has disturbed his premises. Every time another neighbor approaches him, he reacts with indifference, almost hostility, and he never asks anything about your personal life, or any questions about anything, because he is afraid you might ask questions too.

The respect for human rights has become a double-edged knife in this country. We respect the privacy of others, but what happens when this privacy turns into a threat for our own security? Are we not supposed to ask questions either? Honestly, whoever has nothing to hide, will answer a clarifying question, if you explain that there is a certain situation, that makes you feel uneasy. For example: Years ago, I was sitting in my porch when I observed a cat on top of the neighbor's air conditioning unit. It was raining and the unit was right next to their kitchen window. All of the sudden, a gloved hand came through the window and snatched the kitty by the neck, without giving him time to even say “meow”, and ever since that day, I never saw the cat again.

When our neighbors moved out, the new owners of the house found cat skeletons buried everywhere in the back yard and they asked us if we knew anything about the previous owners. Me and my husband looked at each other and we couldn't really answer the question. I guess we never really bothered to talk to them during the 3 years they had been living there.

Later, we were told they raised cats to eat, apparently cats were a delicacy in their country.

This horrific finding made me realize how little we know about the people who surround us. Maybe this is because I have never been one of those nosy people who stick their nose in other people's business. Until then, I thought everyone's life was as normal as mine.


The day we lose our privacy rights in this country, we will lose everything. That is the truth! However, due to so many tragic events lately, we should start thinking about inquiring a little bit more when something doesn't seem right, around us.

As citizens, we all have the right in this world to look for the security, and the well-being of our families. The rights of others, stop where our own rights start. Maybe it would be a good idea to start doing a background check, before selling or renting a house to somebody. Discrimination? Not really, it is more like a safety issue,

It should not be called harassment if what we are trying to do is to make sure that we are safe. And if you don't have anything to hide, and considering the circumstances we are living in today, you shouldn't get offended or mad if someone wants to clarify an honest and understandable doubt. It is called “clearing” and it concerns everyone of us.

If I am unloading a black bag in the middle of the night, and digging in my backyard, and then you don't see my husband for a week, wouldn't you ask? I would! If I am supposed to be unemployed and I bring home a different piece of expensive equipment every day, wouldn't you ask? I would! Or if I am a single man with no relatives, and I bring a child with me one day, disappearing from site for months, wouldn't you ask? I would!

Observe, analyze, discuss, report. In that order. If you suspect something is wrong and you have exhausted every single way to ask and obtain answers without positive results, report it.

If you feel in your gut, that there is something really wrong, it might be. The worst scenario is that the police will clarify it for you, but at least someone knows what is going on now.

Don't do this as revenge or suspect the ants on the ground are up to something, be logical and observe intelligently. Don't just suspect everybody because you can, this is about building a safe environment around us. You don't have to have coffee in your neighbor's kitchen everyday, just learn to detect the signs of a potential dangerous situation. If we start doing this neighborhood wide, we might create a new shield against tragedies like the one in Boston, Oklahoma, Sandy Elementary, Jaycee Lee Dugard (and other thousands of abducted children who have lived in captivity for years), and Jeffrey Dahmer. All these people were someone's neighbor, someone's relative, coworker, someone had contact with these individuals daily. We need to learn to ask questions, and if there is something suspicious, don't just follow that little voice inside of you telling you: “It is not your business” because... it is! It is our business to care about others, even if it implies to ask people questions about their lives. If someone would have called the police, when the neighbors smelled the cadaver scent from Jeffrey Dahmer's apartment, maybe the last victim wouldn't have died. This serial killer had entire barrels full of body parts, which had been decomposing for months.

Don't close your eyes, you could save a life. Let's face it, it could be your life or your loved ones. As Americans, we have the right and the duty to keep our eyes open. After all, it is a fact that these criminals already live among us quietly, waiting for the moment to hurt us. Be alert, and above all, be safe!


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