Monkey sounds, slurs and strobe lights target a Black family — but police say they're powerless to stop it

Photo illustration: Yahoo News. Photos: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images. Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images.
Jannique Martinez claims that her family has been subject to recordings of screeching monkey sounds and racial slurs directed at their Virginia Beach, Va. home since July.

Martinez, who is Black, claims that her neighbor set up motion sensors in order to track the family's movements and harass them. Police say they cannot do anything because there was no physical confrontation and no verbal threats.

Martinez reported that the loud noises from her neighbor's house have stopped this week after national media attention. Martinez says that her neighbor still displays dizzying strobe light.

Martinez stated to Yahoo News that she doesn't believe it should be considered violent crime to be against the law. Martinez also stated that eight cameras were still pointed at her house by the neighbor.

Martinez stated that this isn't about him. This country is so affected by racism. ... This kind of harassment should not be allowed to continue in a family.

Martinez claims that it started in 2017, when Martinez' neighbor started playing loud music. This was about one year after Martinez and her family moved into a cul de sac in Salem Lakes. Martinez called the local police in July to report noise complaints after hearing deafening music from her neighbor's home.

Virginia Beach, Va.

The situation got worse when the neighbor began to make loud monkey sounds. According to the family, they heard the N-word being uttered from their neighbor's home many times. The viral video of the neighbor's home with its pulsating lights and loud banjo music, which was captured earlier this week by South Park characters, went viral on social networks.

Martinez claims her 7-year old son, who is afraid of the neighbor, would often ask the meaning of the N-word because he has heard it so many times. Martinez' family contacted police to stop the harassment. They were informed that the neighbor had not violated any laws.

The neighbor's behavior is appalling and offensive, but the city attorney and Virginia magistrates separately reported that they did not reach a level Virginia law defines as criminal behaviour. The VBPD does not have the authority to intervene, and warrants are not supported.

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Yahoo News did not request comment from the VBPD.

Martinez believes that if the roles were reversed or if Martinez had a different skin colour, then there would be no doubt that something would happen.

She said that she felt like it would have been a lot easier if we were a White family.

According to some legal experts, the police could actually intervene in a case.

Kim Forde-Mazrui is a University of Virginia School of Law professor who believes that the inaction of the police to address the bizarre situation is cause for concern. He believes that neighbors' alleged actions may be in violation of the fighting words doctrine, which allows the government to intervene when language might incite violence.

Forde-Mazrui stated that the police should try to stop the harassment and the courts will decide. Although courts interpret this doctrine narrowly, it is reasonable to believe that the family could react if they understand its nature.

Sign for Virginia Beach Municipal Center, Virginia Beach, Va. (Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images).

Other law enforcement experts warn that it can be difficult to bring a hate crime against a neighbor. According to Dana Schrad (executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police), you can keep a straight line but not make it into an actionable case. The neighbor is a good example of how to keep the line straight, but that doesn't make it any less harmful for the family.

On Wednesday, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring informed the Post that neighbors' behavior was unacceptable. He also said that Martinez had been in touch by his Department of Civil Rights.

Virginia Beach has been affected by the situation. Michael Berlucchi, a member on the City Council, stated last week that although harassment claims by neighbors may be legal it is not right.

Berlucchi stated to Yahoo News that safety and dignity must be given top priority in Virginia Beach.

Berlucchi stated that although some of his coworkers have publicly condemned the neighbor's actions, others have not.

He said that [Black people] need to feel safe in all neighborhoods. It is important that we all know that the city will not tolerate this. I am committed to doing that.

Berlucchi stated that police received a verbal agreement by the neighbor to stop the noise, but Martinez claims that harassment continues.

Martinez has been supported by other neighbors. According to WAVY News, nine complaints were filed against Martinez' neighbor. These complaints included complaints about noise violations and parking. The neighbor has not been charged yet.

Nearly 500,000 people call Virginia Beach home, a coastal Virginia city. Nearly 500,000 people live in Virginia Beach. Only 6% of them are white and 19% are Black. Two of the 11 City Council Members are Black, despite the fact that the city is dominated by white politicians. Virginia Beach has a long history of racial unrest. There was a 1989 riot that caused extensive damage to businesses.

On Sept. 4, 1989, police in riot gear prepared to move down Pacific Avenue, Virginia Beach, Va. (Getty Images).

Martinez attributes her 11-years of military experience to helping her stay cool during the constant confrontation with her neighbor.

She said that my military career has taught me the importance of calmness and being level-headed. Your military bearing is essential as you are constantly being tested. You must keep your military bearing. I also worked hard to get there, and I cannot let anyone who is a coward get me down.

Martinez said that her immediate family and friends have supported her through this difficult time, but she believes something must change.

She said that police could have done more, but they had the option not to. It is about what the law will enforce, and what it will not.

She said that racism isn't an issue in this country, as it doesn't affect white people. It affects us in countries that were never meant for us.

Illustration of the cover thumbnail photo: Yahoo News. Photos: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images. Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images.


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