My wife, the neighborhood watch

My wife had an interesting experience today. She was home with the kids and happened to glance out the front window and see a car sitting in front of our house with two people inside it.

They were staring at the neighbor’s house.
They were wearing sunglasses (it’s cloudy with a chance of rain).
They were still there (and still staring) 40 minutes later.

That’s when she decided to go ahead and call the cops. We live in a small township so the cops don’t have much to do. She said “I feel kind of stupid call the police for this, but people don’t normally sit in a car in front of a house for 40 minutes.”

They reassured her that this was the kind of thing the non-emergency number is for; there’s no emergency, but you think the police should check it out.

She saw the police show up a few minutes later. The cops stopped behind the mysterious car, and it immediately drove off. Hmm . . .

I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but I’m still trying to find a legitimate explanation for this puzzling behavior. Maybe it was a group who plays shows as the Blues Brothers and they spent 40 minutes waiting for our neighbor (who’s part of their carpool), and he happened to call and say he couldn’t make it just as the cop pulled up?

At least that’s my best guess after “casing a house.”

Or detectives watching your neighbor…

This was my thought. It could be private investigators. I see ads online all the time where insurance companies are looking for “surveillance investigators” to watch people making disability claims to see if they are doing something that calls their disability into question. It could be something like that.

If that was the case, though, I’d be a little surprised that they just drove off when the cops showed up instead of telling the cops who they were. Did the cops not follow them when they drove off?

As you might expect, there’s something to be said for anonymity in these situations. Right doesn’t make might so y’all done good just to call and let the authorities take care of it.

Well, to use set theory, the set of “People who don’t really want the bother of talking to the cops” is not the same as the set of “People who have nefarious and/or illegal intentions”. The first mostly includes the second, but there’s a lot in the first who aren’t in the second; for instance people who are really early for an appointment, and decide to just park on a side street and chill for a while, but despite being squeaky clean, they just don’t feel like a big conversation with the 5-0, so when they see a cruiser, decide it’s about time to get moving anyway.

Which isn’t to say your wife was wrong for ringing the cops; sounds like she did a good job of letting them prioritize, and it can’t hurt to have the cruiser come by.

I had some thing similar happen outside my house many years ago.

A couple of young guys were parked in front of our house early in the morning. They weren’t eating breakfast sandwiches or dozing after a night out; they were both wide awake and sober and seemed to be watching something in the car’s rear-view mirror. We looked down the street to see what it was, and some scruffy guys living in a dodgy house at the end of the street were going back and forth from their car to their house. That was also unusual activity, especially at that house.

We kept half an eye on them all the time we were getting ready for work. The time came for my husband to leave for work, and he said “I don’t think these guys are up to any good. I don’t want them to watch you leave the house after I’ve left, so if they’re still here when you’re ready to leave for work, don’t leave and call the cops.”

Well, they hadn’t left, so I did call the cops, kind of sheepishly just like Mrs. Gedd. The dispatcher told me I did right to do so. A few minutes later, the police showed up and questioned the guys. They put the driver into the police car, and the passenger was left free to walk away while their car was being locked up. I don’t know what the police found out, nor did I ever find out what was up. But the parked car was gone when I got back from work that night.

I’d be inclined to think they’re stealing wifi if they’re just sitting there like that.

Process servers, perhaps? We’ve had them turn up at odd hours for the previous renters.

The cops drove after them, but we don’t know what happened. Maybe I’ll check the paper’s “Police Beat” section.

I didn’t think about PIs, drachillix. I don’t know too much about that neighbor. My wife said she’s going to keep on extra eye on the house, and get the plate number of any more cars she sees sitting around again.

A friend’s explaination for the sunglasses was “Blind people wear sunglasses all the time!”

Once in my PI career, I participated in a stake-out related to insurance fraud, and I’m guessing we looked very much like the guys described in the OP. We were all sitting about a block away from our target, rather than across the street, but it was the same idea otherwise. Knowing my boss at the time, if anyone had called the police on us, he would have suggested we drive off as well. The last thing we would have wanted would be to have the subject of our investigation become aware of us by having the police stop and talk to us. Having him know we were following him would have been worse than us leaving and missing a chance to spot him.

That being said, I tend to be a suspicious person and try to be aware of what’s going on in my neighborhood, and I think the OP took exactly the right approach.

Process servers would almost certainly identify themselves to the cops and not just drive off. They’re on the same side after all.

My brother broke his back on a job site, so he was on disability for quite a while (I think it was around a year before all the surgeries where done). He used to joke about the investigators watching him, but it was always just one guy at a time. Wouldn’t they (the investigator company) loose money if they sent out two at at time?

They technically “lose” money no matter how many people they send out if they aren’t able to prove fraud. If I recall correctly, this was a really, really high dollar amount claim (in the million dollar range) from a work injury, and they were very close to trying to settle the case. I imagine it was a no-brainer for the insurance company to spend a few thousand dollars on us for a couple of days. If we don’t find anything (and we didn’t), then they’re out maybe $10k, which isn’t much on top of settling for six figures. If we had found something, it obviously would have saved them a lot of money.

ETA: Ironically, I wound up with a worker’s comp case of my own because someone rear-ended me on the freeway while I was on my way to the stake-out site.

:smiley: That’s awesome. (Well, not the part where you got hurt).

It would only have been better if you got hit while you were sitting watching them. Did your own company send someone to spy on you?

Huh what? You? I never would’ve guessed! Did you ever have an “ask the former PI” thread?

How often did you sit in a darkened office, the window covered with venetian blinds, sipping whisky, when a young beautiful blonde came in out of breath and said “I need your help, Mr. Asimovian. But I can’t afford to pay you. It’s my sister, she’s in big trouble.”

Tell us more!

Even when they sleep???

Yes, I’m quite hilarious.

Even when they drive?

I don’t think anyone would have bothered given the pittance I settled for. :slight_smile:

That never happened, which is part of the reason I’m no longer in the business. :wink: I was really just a guy with a lot of computer savvy who worked at a desk doing online research for the firm. I never had my own PI license – just worked for the guys who did, but I had the title of “investigator.” Most of them were old-school PIs who knew next to nothing about computers, and a lot of new investigative tools were coming around at the time that were internet-based, so I ran that part of the show.

Feel free to PM me so I don’t derail the thread any further, but I promise you my career was not exciting enough to warrant its own thread!

Awww, come on. Tell us. We ARE that bored. (or easily amused.)

I’m interested Asimovian. Maybe start your own “Ask the PI*” thread.