By Jacqueline Shannon
SEATTLE (Zillow) — Not long ago, a suburban Minneapolis man, Barry Ardolf, decided to get back at his new neighbors, the Kostolniks, because they had told police he’d kissed their 4-year-old son on the lips.
Ardolf secretly released wave after menacing wave of abuse against the family by hacking into their Wi-Fi network, stealing their identities and creating new email accounts in their names, which he used to frame them for child porn, sexually harass co-workers and send death threats to Vice President Joe Biden.
This went on for almost two years until experts were able to help the terrorized Kostolniks discover the identity of their tormentor.
Ardolf, whom prosecutors called a “depraved criminal,” pleaded guilty to numerous charges and was sentenced to 18 years in prison in July 2011.
Fortunately, this is a rare extreme version of a neighborhood feud, but many social scientists say neighbor disputes are on the rise.
For example, in a 2007 survey conducted by the Foundation for Community Association Research, 19% of respondents reported that they had been in a “war” with their homeowners association over rules and regulations. Just this past September, a Kentucky man allegedly killed his HOA president and another man because of a battle about a fence.
Green with envy?
Terry Hanrahan, who lives in Orange County, Calif., considers himself lucky to live on a quiet cul-de-sac where neighbors still socialize regularly. The dads get together for poker once a month; the moms have monthly Bunko games, and everyone gets together for a big Fourth of July celebration.
That kind of camaraderie, however, provided no immunity from next-door nastiness. One of the poker-playing dads, who worked for a chemical company, got his hackles up for unknown reasons when a neighbor announced he was installing an in-ground pool, Hanrahan said. “The neighbor balked at permit signings, harassed inspectors and inconvenienced contractors to keep the pool from going in,” he said. Nevertheless, the pool prevailed.