I Live In Constant Fear For My Safety

"Let me explain: Jeremy isn't an ordinary man"

"Let me explain: Jeremy isn't an ordinary man"

I once asked my neighbors, as they were moving out, about the person who lived in my apartment before me. They told me he left the building after an altercation with the homeless man, Jeremy, who lives in our parking lot.

I can’t blame him.

Let me explain. Jeremy is a mentally ill drug addict who is permitted to live on my building’s parking lot, by the resident manager, Dylan (I’m pretty sure), in exchange for sexual favors. On the surface, this sounds sad. It is. The problem is that he terrorizes and harasses me and there’s nothing I can do about it.

I can’t exactly remember when he began to harass me, but I remember how it started. I live next door to a popular bar. Jeremy would take drunken hipsters’ cars to our lot and wash them. I started to find puddles by my parking spot. Several times I slipped, fell, and ended up with wet pants and bruises on my legs. But, I didn’t complain, it was a small price to pay for a rent-controlled apartment.

That is, until it wasn't. 

Out of nowhere, things got personal. I started to come home to him using my spot to run his car-washing business, or he would park random cars there and leave. I would have to ask Jeremy, or call Dylan, to have the cars moved. This became a regular song and dance. It began to wear on me.

At first, I was clouded by feelings of anger, powerlessness, and frustration, but then I realized the scariest part of the situation. This was only happening in my parking spot and no one else’s. Why was this man targeting me? I could only assume it was my spot’s proximity to a hose, but then why my spot and not the ones next to mine?

When I asked him why there were cars in my spot, Jeremy would raise his voice and blame me for the fact that he was in my spot or he would ask me to park in someone else’s spot for a few minutes and then move my car later. One night, things got heated when he called me a bitch. The word bitch is especially powerful when a man says it to a woman. It’s not to be taken lightly.

However, I almost forgot he said it when he followed that up with, “You have no friends.”

WTF? I looked at him in disbelief and without animosity said, “What are you talking about? I have a lot of friends.” He said, “They’re not really friends.” I walked away equally puzzled and shaken. I don’t exactly throw wild parties, but where would this guy get off saying that? Did he say it to try to hurt my feelings? Was he watching who came in and out of my apartment?

The entire incident was incredibly bizarre and threatening.

There were emails and conversations with Dylan where I would tell him what happened, and he would pretend not to know what I was talking about. It made me feel like a victim, like I was asking for too much. He said he would speak with Jeremy, but nothing changed. He found new ways to antagonize me: he'd  stand behind my car and as I tried to back up (away from him and yes, the thought of running him over definitely crossed my mind), he would scream at me to stop. He would also leave random objects like hangers or clothing racks (super weird) in or bordering my spot. Why wouldn’t this man just leave me alone? How are you supposed to deal with a person who is potentially violent and possibly has access to your keys? I don’t think he has it in him to come to my apartment and kill me, but I never forget to put the chain on my door.

At some point last summer, I had a conversation with a different neighbor who told me Jeremy fell asleep with a lit cigarette in his hand and caused a small fire. My intuition was right. This man was dangerous.

I called the Department of Buildings to ask for help. Surely, this whole thing has to be against the law. It’s not. I guess the situation is too strange to establish laws against it. How many buildings would openly allow someone like Jeremy to live in the parking lot? I was told I could complain about the all of the random crap Jeremy kept there (boxes, shopping carts, any junk from the street, etc.) except for the fact that the city would just ask him to clean. It wouldn’t get rid of Jeremy, so much as his personal encampment. I could get a restraining order, but even if I did, nothing was going to stop him from violating it or retaliating. Plus, going to court is expensive, time consuming, and stressful. The whole thing was just crazy. I even called the Police and they were also not helpful because I wasn’t being immediately threatened, although by my calculations, being continuously threatened by a man twice my size is a near constant immediate threat.

This guy could do whatever he wanted on private property. I’m only a helpless female under duress who pays her taxes.

At this point, the right thing to do would have been to call the building owner. I couldn’t understand how he wasn’t aware of the situation. However, I had a slight moral qualm about it. What if he fired Dylan? Then I would feel some sense of guilt. Dylan has a chronic illness requiring nurses to come in and out of his apartment. I’m healthy and have options in life. Running the building is probably the only thing he can do. Or what if Jeremy tried to retaliate violently? I lived alone. I could not defend myself against a man. I thought about moving, but why should I move? Why shouldn’t I be able to live in my home that I pay for in peace?

About a year and half into living in the building, I became bicoastal; I spent a good portion of my time in New York with my boyfriend. But whenever I came back to LA, it was the same story. One night, after coming home from a glamorous party, I found debris in my spot and finally lost my shit. I started screaming at Jeremy. I’m pretty sure entire neighborhood heard me. I threatened to call the police and I went back to my apartment, shaking and dialed 911.

The police came, and much to my surprise (the LAPD doesn’t exactly have a sparkling reputation), they were kind and understanding. (I’m sure the huge Andy Warhol framed gun poster in my living room helped, as did the fact that I was still dressed up and had major cleavage going on.) They listened to my story and tried to find Jeremy, but he was gone. In retrospect, I should not have told him I was calling the police. They told Dylan that Jeremy needed to leave, but of course he didn’t.

I didn’t see Jeremy for a few days, but shortly thereafter I went to back to New York and ended up staying unexpectedly for six months. My boyfriend became my fiancé. When I came back to LA, upon trying to start my car for the first time, I discovered that my gas tank was empty, which seemed impossible because I left it with half a tank. Jeremy must have siphoned gas from my car. I can’t prove it, but I don’t need to.

Several days later, my fiancé and I went across the street to get coffee. I sat on the restaurant’s patio with our two dogs, waiting. There he was. Jeremy was dancing in the restaurant’s parking lot with headphones by himself at 10:00 a.m. on a Tuesday. I couldn’t escape this man even outside the building. Living in this situation, despite the fact that my fiancé can protect me, is a thorn in my side. Every time I go to my car, I don’t know if I am going to encounter him. It’s a constant buzz of anxiety. A woman shouldn’t need a man to protect her, but sadly I do.

My fiancé and I are currently in the process of moving. I can’t help but be scared for the next person who moves into my place. I wish there were something I could do. There is a two-bedroom apartment next door to us that has been available for months. Every Saturday, they have an open house. I haven’t run into any potential new neighbors yet, but I desperately wish I could warn them. I want to take them aside and tell them to run, not walk away from the building. This isn’t a safe place for anyone to be, especially a woman. Will she be harassed too? Will he hurt her? Will she feel the same terror I’ve felt? I wish there were something I could do, but as woman who really likes to help other women, I feel utterly helpless.

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