VIRGINIA BEACH, Va — The Virginia Beach Police Department said Thursday that the “disturbing and reprehensible” situation occurring between neighbors on Jessamine Court has stopped and will not be prosecuted.
According to the department officers responded to numerous calls regarding nuisance and loud music complaints in the streets during October 2020.
One neighbor claimed that another neighbor was making “offensive sound, lights, and words” at high volumes, including banjo music and racial slurs.
“The lights on his house would start blinking because as we step out of our home, we would trigger sensors that would then turn on music,” said Jannique Martinez, who lives next door. “We had one family that as soon as they’d pull up in their driveway, the music would start.”
Martinez claimed that the taunting affected her youngest son the most.
She stated that he was scared. “He would be afraid of going to retrieve his ball if it was ever lost, or he’d feel like he’d come out and yell at the boy, which he has done before.”
Paul Neudigate, Chief of Police, stated that he spoke with the complainant in this case on Thursday and told her to stop making noises.
Neudigate released a statement saying that “I was pleased to learn from her that the offensive behaviour voluntarily ceased as a result of Sept. 23 and hasn’t reoccurred.” “I assured Ms. Martinez the Virginia Beach Police Department will continue its support for her concerns. She should not hesitate in calling us if this behavior recurs.”
After a thorough investigation, they concluded that the city attorney, magistrate, and Commonwealth’s attorney were “all in agreement” that neighbor’s behavior is not a crime according to Virginia statutes.
These statutes “may not criminalize words that are true threats or reasonably likely to provoke an instant breach of peace.”
“The sounds and lights and words that were displayed in the Jessamine Court home are offensive and unacceptable but they do not meet this standard. According to the department, there is no evidence that supports a criminal case.
Police also said the loud music doesn’t go above the noise level in the city ordinance.
Dana Schrad is the Executive Director of Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police. To charge someone with hate crime in this kind of matter, you need to prove intent and have proof that someone intended to instill fear in a person or harass them because of their specific class.
“The defense part of this is, does the individual have a free speech right that would be in some way, they have a first amendment right to communicate whatever they want,” Schrad said. “You can have [a] bias against anybody; it’s not a crime to do that. The crime occurs when you specifically intend to harass or intimidate when your speech elevates to that level.”
Because he didn’t make any direct threats to her family, Martinez said there’s not much that can be done.
“I felt deflated,” she said. “I felt so defeated. I just felt like I couldn’t protect my kids. I couldn’t imagine living like this.”
According to the department’s officials, they continue to look into other avenues for redress. They also contacted the FBI to find out if anything could be done from a federal standpoint. The Civil Division of the Attorney General’s Office continues to investigate.
Attorney General Mark Herring stated in a tweet that his Office of Civil Rights was in contact with victims of harassment. He also said that they are working alongside state entities and the victims to end it. “Race-based harassment or discrimination in housing is against the law, and I will not let it happen in Virginia,” Herring said in a tweet.
This story was first reported on by Antoinette at WTKR.