Monday, August 24, 2015

The siren's heartless wail

The siren loudspeaker and the security camera (actual photo)
For some people, the compulsion to hurt others gets their creative juices flowing.

One little neighborhood illustrates that phenomenon. There, a hostel for children with autism aged 13 to 26 has been riling some neighbors since it opened five years ago.

Keying the cars of hostel employees, yelling at visiting parents and other traditional modes of harassment kept those neighbors busy for a while. But then they  grew restless and came up with this novel idea:  a loudspeaker installed on a neighboring roof that incessantly blares a siren whenever the residents are in their yard.

To lend a hand, an accomplice periodically sets off an alarm from his home. The hostel residents are extremely distressed by this abuse as they are hypersensitive to sounds.

And for good measure, a security camera positioned by the neighbor beside his loudspeaker has been filming the youths.

For years, the regional council and police tossed the ball of responsibility at one another leaving the residents and their families with no legal recourse. All attempts at rapprochement undertaken by the operators of the hostel and its residents have been rebuffed by the neighbors.
"What is happening... is simply shocking. I can’t manage to comprehend it. These children are angels who do not nothing bad to anybody. Apparently there are some who are concerned that their property value will drop because of their proximity to a hostel for the autistic..." (A parent of one of the hostel residents)
Now the police have finally intervened.

But the regional authority in its official response has exhibited the same creativity as those thugs. After a perfunctory note of "regret that the neighbors and the hostel children, both blameless, have become victims" and a boast that the authority has "done a lot to integrate people with special needs", they give this clincher:
"...The presence of the hostel diminishes the quality of life in the community because it is a business in a residential zone."
Clearly there's still plenty of work out there for disability activists.


Elizabeth said...

This is beyond horrible. Are there any articles online about it?

The Sound of the Silent said...

Elizabeth, here's an article about the story. My son, who often alerts me to relevant items, sent me this one

There's a paywall up at random times but I managed to get the article in full at one point.

Israel Police to Investigate Harassment of Group Home for People With Autism
A neighbor who objects to their presence said to set off a siren and aims a security camera at the home whenever the residents, aged 13 to 26, are outside.
Ofra Edelman Jul 29, 2015 9:25 AM

read more: about a year, residents of a group home for people with autism in Moshav Yanuv have been harassed by neighbors who object to their presence.

According to a police complaint filed on Tuesday by the home’s management, one neighbor sets off a siren and aims a security camera at the home whenever the residents, aged 13 to 26, are outside. Another neighbor periodically sets off an alarm. The loud sounds upset the residents, who are particularly sensitive to noise.
The hostel is run by the Elor organization, whose CEO Alon Elroi said officers were dispatched to handle specific incidents, but while a formal complaint was made a few months ago, it was only after Tuesday’s complaint, which was accompanied by video of the harassment, that an investigation was launched.

Elroi said neighbors also complained repeatedly to the Lev Hasharon Regional Council, saying the home’s residents created too much trash and made too much noise when playing outside, and that visiting parents blocked their parking spaces. A meeting organized by the local government was unsuccessful.

“There were cases of cars being scratched, very unpleasant and unacceptable incidents,” Elroi said.

But when the home sought help from authorities, it often fell between the bureaucratic cracks. Police said they could only intervene at certain hours, because at other times responsibility rested with the local government. But when Elor complained to the regional council, it referred them to the police, saying it was powerless to intervene.

“Had the law enforcement agencies acted more resolutely, this might have been stopped sooner,” Elroi said.

He said the local government’s attitude is important in setting the tone: A local government that welcomes a group home influences the public to follow suit.
Both the home’s management and residents’ parents said they would rather have resolved the dispute peacefully, which is why they waited so long to file a complaint. The home even had residents bring gifts to one particularly problematic neighbor on various holidays, but he refused to open the door.

It was only after this neighbor activated his siren on Tuesday, while one of the mothers was visiting, that Elor finally decided to file another police complaint.

“I was returning my son when I suddenly heard the siren, and then all kinds of screeches, something awful, horribly grating, like nails on a chalkboard, that makes your hair stand up,” said the mother, who asked to remain anonymous. “And I went into the hostel with my son and saw the children outside and realized that that’s what they do when they go out, and I also saw a camera with the lens pointed at the hostel. You understand, as the mother of an autistic child, I’m forbidden to photograph any autistic child at the hostel except my son, but he’s pointing his camera at the children?

“The noise was incessant,” she continued. “I took my iPhone and began recording. And he stood in front of me, smiling, and continued the noise.

“I told the director, ‘What is this? Why didn’t you tell us parents?’ It’s scandalous.”

Itzik Feld, whose son also lives in the home, chimed in, “The angels who live here don’t constitute a nuisance or a danger. They’re autistic adults, reasonably functional, and anyone would want neighbors like them.”

One person who bought a house on the moshav two years ago “didn’t know… [Exceeds char limit]