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Allentown homeowners want relief from passersby relieving themselves

When Robert and Julie Maefs purchased their Victorian house in Allentown, they valued the architecture, history and urban lifestyle of their new neighborhood.

They never expected their 19th century three-story residence would become a public privy.

But that is exactly what happened over the 13 years they owned their house on Elmwood Avenue.

"I knew when buying the house it would not be a quiet suburban neighborhood," said Robert Maefs, 40. "That isn't the problem. The problem is with the growing number of people coming downtown relieving themselves on my house.

"The worst ones are the people who come down for the restaurants or bar scene. They don't respect the neighborhood. Locals almost never do it," said Robert Maefs, who owns a software development company.

The most recent incident involved a bold urinator who decided to walk up Maef's driveway and relieve himself against the house in broad daylight when Julie Maefs was home alone.

"The last time was in the afternoon, not a homeless guy. It was a guy out and about who decided my house was the right spot," Robert Maefs said. "Lack of respect is the bottom line."

The action led Robert Maefs to post his concerns on Nextdoor.com, a private social network that allows neighbors across the country to exchange concerns, advice and news.

After expressing his unhappiness about the situation, he asked: "Is there something we can do besides call 911 every time someone exposes themselves on my property?"

The post unleashed a stream of 34 comments from people who commiserated, condemned and offered constructive advice to the couple on how to deal with the problem.

"Assuming it is happening at night, do you have floodlights with motion sensors pointed at the area?" asked William Porter of the Elmwood Village. "Solar-powered ones are relatively inexpensive and while not super bright should be enough to get the job done and don’t require wiring."

Other residents suggested the interloper receive a paintball bath or an air-horn greeting.

"A paint ball gun would be an assault," said Robert Maefs. "I don't want to be the guy winding up on the national news."

Personal injury attorney and downtown resident Peter M. Jasen suggested: "Videotape them with your phone or video recorder and try to get their face as well as their activity. Then turn the video over to the police when they arrive. It certainly will discourage repeat offenders."

Urinating outdoors on private property is a criminal offense if witnessed by police, said Capt. Jeffrey Rinaldo of the Buffalo Police Department. The charge would be a B misdemeanor trespass punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine, Rinaldo said.

The city's many festivals and parades are not a problem for Robert Maefs because of the abundance of portable restrooms made available for over-hydrated revelers, he said.

"The exception is the St. Patrick's Parade," said Robert Maefs. "The type of person who is drawn to excessive drinking exemplifies the type of person who is the problem. The other festivals are wonderful. The events are not the problem. The bars are not the problem; they have bathrooms."

Robert Maefs has decided to turn to Alexa, the virtual assistant, for help.

"We will try the water trick, voice-activated sprinklers," said Robert Maefs. "I don’t want to spray the mailman. I need to have have access to my property, too.  I can't make it dangerous. I can't booby trap it.

"But I can use my Alexa and turn on the sprinkler system aimed at the couple of spots they like to go. That will wash it out to the street and my house won't smell like stale urine," said Robert Maefs.

Rinaldo concurred.

"People can take whatever reasonable means necessary to protect their personal property including security lights, alarms and sprinklers," said Rinaldo. "But we always encourage people if they experience this activity to call 911 so we can address it."

Robert Maefs advocates for an "in-house" remedy, a way for the neighborhood to discharge the nuisance.

"There needs to be a community way to solve this," Robert Maefs said. "It's a challenge, but we can do it, and we don't need police with batons or a task force – just us.

In the end you are responsible for your body," Robert Maefs said. "Find a bathroom or hold it."

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