VIRGINIA BEACH — When Karen Quick went to decorate the mailbox of her daughter’s friend last week for her 12th birthday, she knew to expect the banjo music and flashing lights blinking from the house next door.
Her husband told her the night before that he thought he heard “racist stuff” coming from a speaker inside the neighboring house when he went to pick up their daughter from Jannique and John Martinez’s home. She brushed him off because she thought he’d been mistaken.
But the banjo music seemed to be playing louder, and then Quick said she heard a slur come from the speaker next door.
Jannique Martinez and her family, who are Black, have lived in the cul-de-sac on Jessamine Court for five years. She said she’s had to deal with loud music and taunting behavior for the majority of the time she’s lived in the Salem Lakes neighborhood.
Multiple calls to Virginia Beach police have resulted in the neighbor turning the music down, sometimes before officers arrive, Martinez said.
The “constant” music coming from next door became “white noise” for the Martinez family and their neighbors Andy and Nancy Eleftheratos. But since July, sounds of a monkey screeching came from a room on the house’s far left side.
The sounds play through a window roughly every 15 to 30 seconds, Martinez said.
The Virginian-Pilot attempted to reach out to the neighbor for comment.
Virginia Beach police received two calls for service to the neighbor’s home on Sept. 14 and 15 for “nuisance/loud noise complaints,” according to the department’s spokesperson, officer Linda Kuehn. The following day, on Sept. 16, Martinez said she started to hear the “n-word,” and she asked the authorities to make it stop.
She called Virginia Beach police that Saturday to see if the department could do anything about the sounds coming from the house next door at in the 2000 block of Jessamine Court. But police officials told Martinez they couldn’t do anything, and they advised her to go to the Virginia Beach Magistrate Office, which also told her last week there was nothing it could do.
The Magistrate Office did not respond to requests from The Virginian-Pilot.
She went to the city courthouse after she left the magistrate’s office to file a civil complaint against her neighbor to no avail. Martinez said although the judge was compassionate toward her situation, legally, there was nothing he can do since her neighbor never threatened her or inflicted bodily harm toward her or her family.
Virginia Beach’s city attorney pointed The Pilot to an ordinance outlining the city’s requirements for noise disturbances, but the office didn’t respond to requests for comment.
“We are good people. This is life for us, and just to know that no one protects us. No one — no law,” she said. “I can’t live like this.”
Martinez and her husband have three children, ages 7, 12 and 20.
“Here I am thinking that I am placing them in a good environment, and it ended up being hostile. ... The last thing I want to feel like is that I’ve failed them in any sort of way, and the fact that I feel like live protect them from it, it sucks,” she said.
For what felt like her last option, Martinez allowed Quick to post a video she took the night she came to decorate her mailbox. The two mothers, along with roughly 25 people, gathered on the street Friday in the cul-de-sac chanting “spread love, not hate.”
The banjo music had been turned down after a Pilot reporter recorded the audio Wednesday night, Martinez said.
Nancy Eleftheratos, a homeowner on Jessamine Court, said she didn’t know the majority of the people who came out but she appreciated for their support.
“This right here, as much as I love this, I worry about what we’re going to live with for the next two weeks,” she said, referring to possible reactive behavior from her neighbor.
Martinez said after all that has happened she’s considered putting her children in counseling. She knows they will have questions — about their neighbor’s behavior, about hearing the racial slur and about seeing a crowd of people outside their home with signs. They hope those questions will be answered by a professional.