VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — For a group of neighbors in a Virginia Beach neighborhood, silence is golden.
According to police, a frustrating situation among neighbors in a cul-de-sac in the Salem Lakes neighborhood of Virginia Beach has “voluntarily ceased.”
For more than a year, a neighbor’s loud music and other offensive sounds coming over the speakers tormented several residents. 10 On Your Side went to the neighborhood to investigate.
In the past, Jannique Martinez said music would play loudly over her neighbor’s speakers, shaking her home. After alerting police about the music, Martinez said her neighbor retaliated by playing racial slurs and monkey noises.
However, since 10 On Your Side’s story originally aired — and went viral — police say the loud music and offensive sounds have ceased. Police released a statement on Twitter Thursday detailing the results of their response.
When 10 On Your Side inquired about the situation on Jessamine Court last month, police said they were limited in what they could do. While the sounds were annoying and offensive, police said the issue didn’t rise to the level that warranted criminal charges.
In Thursday’s update, Police Chief Paul Neudigate said the neighbor’s “horribly offensive behavior” had “voluntarily ceased” as of Sept. 23.
Neudigate, in a release from the department, said he was able to speak directly with the complainant and assured her that she should call police again if the behavior reoccurs.
The police department said a thorough investigation was conducted by the Virginia Beach Police Department, and the City Attorney, Magistrate, and Commonwealth’s Attorney and all entities agreed the neighbor’s behavior didn’t rise to the criminal level.
“The VBPD will continue to monitor the situation and if this conduct arises in the future, it will again evaluate the facts and evidence and take whatever steps possible to bring it to an end. Additionally, the VBPD has continued to explore other avenues of redress, including contacting the Federal Bureau of Investigation to see if there was anything actionable from a Federal standpoint,” the department wrote in the release.
Separately, the Civil Division of the Virginia Attorney General’s Office is investigating the matter.
After our original reporting on Friday, an investigator with Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia also reached out to 10 On Your Side looking to make contact with the Martinez family.
They are actively looking into the situation to see what can be done for them. According to their site, a division of their team works to protect minorities from harassment in their neighborhoods.
They say harassment can include interference, coercion, threats or intimidation.
10 On Your Side sat down with Director of Fair Housing Shivaughn Ferguson to talk about possible outcomes for Martinez if she decided to take the situation to civil court.
“There’s a whole other process and a whole other lens to get to a situation to see if your civil rights are being violated. And I believe there’s an opportunity for that in this particular situation,” Ferguson said.
She says if civil rights violations are found, then a variety of solutions could be available to the family — and it’s up to them for what those might look like.
“What is healing for Ms. Martinez? What does she want? That will be the first thing that will be asked. We can be really creative in that process and she may say ‘I no longer want to live here,’ or she may say ‘I no longer want that person to live here if he’s going to continue harassing me in this way,'” Ferguson said.
Another form of justice could come in the form of punitive damages.
“To be able to say that my security and my life and my familyhood and put a dollar value on that is extremely offensive, but the reality of it is that is going to cost money for that damage to be undone,” Ferguson said.
The Martinez family’s story didn’t just catch the attention of advocates, but activists as well. Among them is Russell “Jolly Good Ginger” Tee.
The family’s situation upset him and others so much that they decided to host a rally on Saturday, Oct. 9.
“Yep, I’m pissed off today,” said Tee in an Instagram video with thousands of views about the neighborhood’s situation.
“When Ms. Martinez approached the Virginia Beach Police Department, they told her there’s nothing they can do. I disagree — I believe there is some type of recourse,” he told WAVY News in an interview.
He’s hoping that although the noise has stopped, the rally’s display of unity for the Martinez family helps keep it that way. Participants can meet in the Food Lion parking lot on Salem Terrace at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 9.
“We’re hoping when the noise of the media goes down, that his noise doesn’t turn back up,” Tee said.
Police have also released a timeline of the various calls to the neighborhood for the issue. Read the details here.
If you or someone you know is experiencing harassment in their living situation based on their race, religion, or anything else – you can contact HOMEofVa by clicking here.