Jason asks: Once or twice a week, someone has been ringing my doorbell at 1 a.m. and running away. I believe the culprit is a child (maybe 10 years old) who lives a few houses down. His family has problems and we have seen the mother walk up the road in nothing but a towel. I believe in talking to people instead of calling the cops immediately. How do I approach them?
Annie answers: First things first. 1 a.m.?! I'm really sorry this is happening to you. In all likelihood, the ding dong dash is probably the handiwork of a mischievous kid. However, I think we need to take a step back before we can take a step forward. Do you have any actual proof that your 10-year-old neighbor is the culprit? If not, you'll have to invest in a home security camera and get some evidence before you go knocking on your neighbor's door to accuse her son of being a menace. Pointing a camera directly on your porch property will help confirm your troublemaker. From there, you can begin solving the doorbell problem so you can get back to sleep.
If and when you do have proof, take it to the source. If it turns out to be the neighbor boy, have a chat with him. Don't even mention the doorbell at first. Establish a rapport. Offer him a few bucks to help do some yard work. Engage with him. The more he gets to know you and the more you get to know him; he will be less likely to want to wake you up in the middle of the night. Give it a few weeks, and if it's still happening, simply ask him about it. Tell him you know he's the culprit, mention your home security cameras, and ask him nicely to be a better neighbor. If you have no luck with the boy, take the same approach with his mother. Establish a relationship, wait a week or two, and only bring the security footage to her door if you have to. I just hope, for your sake, she doesn't answer that door wearing nothing but a towel.
Have a question for Annie? E-mail email@example.com. Please note: Annie has a BA in English and loves uninterrupted sleep, but is not a licensed counselor.