Neighbor Wars: When to call 911...and when not to

TUCSON, Ariz. - Chances are, wherever a person lives, neighbors are going to butt heads over something or another.

Things like, barking dogs, dirty yards, or parking problems. Even, "The neighbor's tree is now growing over onto my side of the yard," Tucson Police Sergeant Pete Dugan said.

People call 911 for help with these disputes more than one might think. But, there really isn't much the police can do about it, in a lot of situations. 

"Often times we end up responding out and we have to tell them, this is a civil matter, it's not a criminal matter," Dugan said. "And not a matter for the police."

However, that doesn't mean these problems aren't a big deal. Often times, they are city code violations that come with hefty fines. 

"You're a part of a neighborhood," Ronni Kotwica said. "You need to respect everybody else around you as far as maintaining your property."

Kotwica is the president of the Palo Verde Neighborhood Association. Throughout her tenure, she's dealt with her fair share of problems. 

"Barking dogs, messy yards, if there's a lot of debris, weeds," she said. "Junk motor vehicles, pools that aren't maintained, loose dogs."

However, she says they don't happen on a regular basis in her neighborhood. But just recently, two neighbors did just butt heads over an issue.

"The people did try to handle it," Kotwica said. "They left a note for the person and it became contentious."

When things do get contentious, or if it has the potential to get heated, that's when Dugan says they'd like people to call. While it may not be the highest priority call, TPD will still show up.

"We never want to put anyone in a dangerous situation, so if you're being threatened with violence or somebody is purposely damaging your property or something you own, in the neighborhood, we don't want you to go ahead and talk to them," Dugan said. "That's when we get involved, that's a criminal issue, and we should come out and intervene."

A simple way to get ahead of these conflicts? 

"We encourage people to try getting to know their neighbors," Dugan said. "Sometimes that little step can go a long way and you don't have to send a police officer out."

Kotwica agrees, and believes that's why there aren't too many conflicts in her neighborhood.

"If you know them on a first name basis and you say hi to them, it's a much better situation," she said.

By solving the smaller problems among each other, the police say they can focus more on the bigger issues. But at the end of the day, if someone doesn't feel safe or uncomfortable, Dugan says, give them a call.

"Any time that you can take that extra step to maybe resolve the situation yourself, we really encourage that," he said. "But don't get me wrong, we will respond out to help with anything."

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