It Can’t Happen Here

But it did. There was nothing on HBO Wednesday, June 3 that was worth watching, but fear not. I got to watch a cop show live from my living room window, namely a search warrant executed for a meth lab.  Here come Six Points.

1. Where did this happen?

I reside in an exurb of Cleveland, where the average home value is substantially above average for the region. In its “rating the suburbs” edition, Cleveland Magazine scored this town 11th of over 70 suburbs it rated for public safety.

Usually, the biggest items on the police blotter here are OVIs. The lawns in my development look like fairways. My section of the development was originally a horse pasture for a drugstore magnate on the grounds of his summer home, but generations later, mature landscaping lines the street, and the trees seem to guide you home.

It’s a quiet neighborhood, but we have our share of Condo Nazis. If your patio is not up to standard, be prepared to get a Nastygram in the mail. If you don’t pay your fees, prepare for a lien on your property. On this street, we have what I would call a New York approach. In other words, mind your own damn business, but be cordial.

2. What happened?

Numerous police agencies arrived and put on a show. No lights, no gunshots, no sirens, but three of the local po-pos were here in uniform, plus one county sheriff deputy and four trucks and SUVs with civilian plates on them.

There was yellow police tape outside of the 1,600-square-foot end unit, and two of the men from the trucks put hazmat suits on. Out from the garage came an industrial  barrel and a bucket, and then, the men in suits entered the condo and came out carrying various chemicals, of household and other varieties.

Just like a cop show in real life, the undercover cops then put the chemicals on a table in the garage and took pictures for evidence. Then, out came the evidence bags.

Nice and thrilling on TV, but not what you want to watch from your back patio.

3. Who made it happen?

On the basis of tips, the local cops were here, plus SWAT, the BCI (Bureau of Criminal Investigation), and sheriffs from both Summit and Geauga counties. Now, Geauga County is, as they would say in the South, a fur piece from here.

When the drama looked like it was concluding, I talked to one of the men who had shed his Hazmat suit. The conversation went something like this:

Me: What was this, a meth lab?

Him: Yes.

Me: Great! A wannabe Heisenberg across the lawn! Was this the guy with the loud F-250?

Him: Yes. He’s in Geauga County Jail. We arrested him this morning.

Me: Geauga County? He reached that far?

Him: We had our eye on him for a while. This is his third arrest for this.

Me: Then how did he get here?

Him: The place was in foreclosure, and he was squatting.

Me: If you’re squatting, if you had a brain, wouldn’t you keep a lower profile?

Him: We might want to talk to you.

Me: The only thing I know about meth labs is from watching Breaking Bad and what I see in the media. I’m just a neighbor.

4. Cop a Squat.

Back in my high school days, that was slang for “please, sit down.”

I prefer “please, sit down” these days, but I still remember Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman saying “Cop a Squat.”

OK, cops got a squatter. Huh?

Squatters, from my limited naiveté, are in abandoned row houses in Philadelphia and Baltimore, not here. And, with the number of eyeballs on my street, someone had to let him squat.

We need to find out who, and I have a few clues. I hope Barney Fife here also has some. I want to stay out of this. I’m just the neighbor.

5. Addition by Subtraction

The late Paul Brown once said that to the press about cutting a player.

My neighborhood is better off with this moron in jail.

It’s 2:00 a.m. What’s the rest of the street doing? Either sleeping or praying they will get home from the bar without getting stopped by the police.

Actually, on this street, they are just sleeping, unless they have prostate issues and are getting up to pee.

What was Asshole Neighbor doing at that hour? Running his air compressor and doing mechanical work on his vehicles while shining lights in my window.

Friday night, May 29, Ozzie (my loving but protective mix of black Lab and Rottweiler) started going nuts. There was a man who was working on his Frank Gallagher look (reference to Shameless) asking me about a plastic table and chairs on the curb. It was the night before trash day.

Me: Why are you here?

Him: Someone left a table and chairs out there and I wondered if I could have it. I always ask.

Ozzie: Growl.

Me: We have three choices here. One, I call the police, and they will be here in 90 seconds. You won’t like that. Two, I let the dog loose. You really won’t like that. Three, and I advise you to make this choice, is GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE! NOW!

Ozzie: Growl.

He took Option Three, and about three minutes later, I called the po-pos and reported the incident and his vehicle.

I thought something was just not right, as this man looked like he did not belong here. On Saturday night, May 30, Asshole was running his compressor at 2 a.m. I asked Asshole about the plastic table and chairs, as I saw they were gone before the trash man came, told him about the incident, and he said “I took it. My girlfriend needed them.”

Suspicious Man was probably Asshole’s buddy, casing garages. This is not a poor neighborhood, and there is some expensive stuff in the shared garages here.

Thank you, Ozzie! My bicycles are still here!

6. This may run deeper

Now, who let Asshole Neighbor squat?

You don’t squat here without permission. Asshole Neighbor, covered with tattoos, did not exactly fit on a street where people go to work in neckties or skirts or slacks.

And, who paid the electric bill, as the lights were on in every room of that condo at 0300?

I have possible connections, but they are not to be published here at this time. This could be a spider web worthy of the Duggar family.

Extra Point: Prevention

Depending on the level of contamination done by Asshole Neighbor, a $140,000 condo could be worthless.

As much as I want to have my space and give my neighbors theirs, we may need to get out of our New York State of Mind. Go ahead, Condo Nazis, bring it. After I get done posting this, the Roundup goes after the weeds on the patio.

I’m glad the media was all over the Cavaliers instead of covering actual news. This way, property values here will not plummet. Of course, if you rent a hotel room on a budget, you have no idea if someone was cooking methamphetamine in it the night before.

And, there is another factor. Call it the elephant in the room.

Even before the Great Recession, foreclosures exploded not just in Cleveland and the inner suburbs, but in upscale places like Chagrin Falls and Hudson. In my immediate area, people could score a $100,000 condo for $55,000. Some buyers played the HGTV game of flipping, but most stayed and put down roots.

There may be no answers to this, but I guess our best answer, no matter where we live, is not to be the nosy neighbor, but to be our brother’s keeper.

Two Point Conversion: Update

The owner of that unit had it willed to him by his late father, and said owner is on parole. He gave permission to Asshole to stay there in his absence when he had room and board courtesy of the State of Ohio. Both men are looking at much smaller and less luxurious accommodations for many years. Law enforcement had the condo under surveillance for a month or more.


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