“Citizen’s Arrest!” What to Do When Teens Party on Your Block?

Posted May 26, 2010 by

Photo of elisabeth

I have officially become the Barney Fife of my town. But more about that later.

We have a little partying problem in our neighborhood, you see. At the end of our street is a secluded area where all the teenagers go to drink and get high. When my husband and I bought our house here six years ago, little did we know that our street has been the place for teens to party since God was a child. (The realtor left out that little fact…hmmmm.)

Not only that, but kids drive at crazy speeds down our street — usually texting and blaring their radios at the same time.  I know I sound like an old fogey, but here’s the problem — there are loads of little kids on our block, from babies up to 12-year-olds.  I live in fear that one of them, including my son, might be hurt because of some dumb choice a teenager makes one summer afternoon.

Which leads me back to Barney Fife, the spastic policeman on the old Andy Griffith Show. When agitated, which was often, Barney could be seen running around town blowing his whistle, eyeballs popping out of his head, veins splaying out of his turkey neck. And now, I have officially become the Barney of our neighborhood. “Slow down!” I yell to the kids. I’ve also been known to call the police when I see kids smoking, and also on their raucous parties.

Today I went to the police station and picked up some traffic cones to put in the center of the street in front of our house.

The funny thing is, I’ve always been pretty laid back. I was not an angel as a teenager, believe me. (You can read more about that here.) But becoming a parent has changed all that mellowness, I guess, at least when it comes to my child’s well-being.

When I put the orange traffic cones out today, some teenage girls said, “God, that’s so anal.” I just smiled. Yup, I’m anal now. And I’m OK with that.

In fact, I’m thinking of getting a whistle.

What do you do when you see teens drinking, smoking or partying in public? Any advice for this agitated mom?


Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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  1. Kim Stricker Report

    A recent neighbor put an anonymous note in some of our cul-dul-sac neighbor’s mailboxes. The letter encouraged our neighbors not to drive so fast on the street because of all the young children. (the homes with young children received no note nor sent such note) I do not know who sent the note…the neighbor with the tiny dog? or the neighbor with fast driving teenagers? However, I did appreciate it as a mom with young kids always playing in the cul-de-sac.

  2. Lisa Jander Report

    Friends don’t let friends DATE drunk.
    The problem with designated drivers is that they are often participating in the same activity along with the friends they have been enlisted to protect.
    For instance, say I go with a group of friends to a St. Patty’s Day party where the overwhelming theme is alcohol. If I am the designated driver, how will I steer clear of the keg so that I make sure my best friend will get home safely? Am I smart and sober enough to take away her keys before she puts herself in danger? A designated driver has a tough job – stay sober, keep your friend in line, make sure she doesn’t do something stupid and then deliver her safely home so that she can sleep it off. Drinking and driving is a scary thing.
    If you think that’s a challenge, how do you keep your best friend from drinking and DATING? When do you step in and take away the keys to their heart to keep them safe? How much influence do you have over your friend that is intoxicated with some guy she is dating? What are the chances she will be able to “sleep it off” by tomorrow?
    Yes, drinking and driving is extremely dangerous, so is drinking and dating. The difference is that driving drunk is measurable, identifiable and within a specific time frame. Dating a drinker? Not so much.
    What is your “legal limit” when it comes to drinking and dating?
    Mama j

  3. Susan Engel Report

    You go, Barney! hehe 😉

    I say GOOD FOR YOU for sticking up for the safety of your son and the other (young) kids on your street! This may sound funny coming from one of those former partier-at-the-end-of-the-street types (ahem! blush), but like you intimated, Elisabeth: Now that we’re parents ourselves, we now have a responsibility to be the eyes and ears for our children, to protect them from their naivete about life.

    BTW, I love the idea of the traffic cones in front of your house … hehe Creative mom strikes again! woo hooo 🙂

    So, yeah — you GO, Barney! (fist pump)

  4. Mom 1wolf Report

    I too, had to be the Barney Fife including my husband. When you’re raising your children you want what is best and showing them that it is okay to call in enforcement of the law when needed will also show them that they too can turn to the law if they need to. It doesn’t come down to just the noise pollution during the night. But to the safety of the teens that are partying up as I noticed Colin Wee thought that college students moved in, and ended up son of a friend. And who knows how young other children may be involved so I say to you all way to go. “I am anal, and I too am ok with that.” Keep up the good work everyone.

  5. Elisabeth Wilkins, EP Editor Report

    Thank you for your comments and for making me laugh at myself a little. It’s a funny thing to realize that I’ve become one of “those” parents — you know, the uncool type. But I have to say that being Barney Fife is worth it to me if it prevents even one accident. I think Dinomommy brings up a good point when she mentions how things used to be — when any adult on the block had the power to ask what was going on, and might give you a talking to if you were crossing the line in some way. My husband grew up in an Italian neighborhood, and he said that any adult had just as much power as his parents to reprimand him. Not only did he have a very loving childhood, but he also stayed on the straight and narrow. Sometimes I long for those days! Still, thanks for the reminder. I’m going to tell our trusted neighborhood friends that I am fine with them talking to our son if they see him misbehaving. 🙂

  6. Dinomommy Report

    Eons ago, when I was a kid, my friends and I wouldn’t dare to misbehave where neighbors could see and report to our parents because report they did! It needs to be OK again to speak up when teens act stupid and make poor choices and break the law. Just as it is a teens “job description” to push limits, so it is the adults in their lives’ (neighbors, friends including parents)job description to stop them, with understanding and fairness but confidence that they still need our guidance and protection. Good for all of you that have done that!

  7. reginamcr Report

    I had the same conversation to myself yesterday while mowing my front law., I live at the end of a cul da sac and 3 kids pulled up separately in cars for the kid next door, one waited in the street, the other 2 pulled in the garage then left with in five minutes and I said to myself, AHH, drug dealing is going on over there! and at the same time I said when did I become old and so suspicious? I guess the answer is when I had kids. I like the line “I’m anal and I’m ok with it.” (they will be too some day.) I have gone out there many nights at 2 in the morning and become Barney Fife, came inside and laughed at myself but boy it really is annoying to have 20 people outside your window making tons of noise and revving engines. Summer is just starting so Barney may appear on this doorstep again, who knows!

  8. Colin Wee Report

    When a bunch of what I thought were college students started renting the vacant house at the back of our house, it was mayhem on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. I was really not a happy camper – the kids had trouble getting to sleep and they had their music blasting. It didn’t take me long to call the cops on them at 12 midnight. Apparently two cars were sent 15 minutes later – what a response time! The next day, my wife called the other adjacent neighbour, and both of them got in touch with the owner of the house – who apologised immediately and sent the property manager to go chat with them. After the whole debacle, we found out the following week that the person who rented the house was the son of a friend who lives across the street! I just laughed it off. It’s my right to be anal! Good luck! Colin



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