On July 10, an East Clairemont neighborhood was faced with a vandalized SUV asking people to "Call Turko" because "This neighborhood is a meth op." Michael Turko said no one ever did "Call Turko."
On July 15, a south Clairemont resident photographed a man in the canyon changing his shirt before scoping out her condo mailboxes and then heading back to the canyon to change again. This sighting correlated with a recent uptick in thefts. She feared last summer's “camper bandits" were back.
In the summer of 2016, residents shared photos and info about these suspicious people on NextDoor. We gave them nicknames so neighbors could know who we were talking about. This summer, a possible "Scooby Doo" sighting garnered 100 comments.
Other than "Scooby Doo," "Shaggy," "Spicoli," and "Old Man,” "Oranges" seemed to have returned; she was nicknamed so because she said she was picking oranges when it appeared she was casing cars. "Scooby Doo" was accused of assaulting a resident and was known for wearing white knee-socks with flip-flops.
On July 24, a Tioga camper parked at the laundromat in the Clairemont Village shopping center (Clairemont Drive and Burgener Boulevard). Neighbors said it looked like drugs were being dealt and that some "camper bandits" were in attendance.
One guy was wearing a chemical apron. This same guy was seen going into that camper the day before with a gas mask. After ten minutes of several neighbors watching the vehicle, an odd assortment of characters rolled out of the camper before it took off.
Neighbors then clued me in on three suspected drug houses in the neighborhood. One has been raided several times by the police. Recently, people were out front handcuffed while the police searched the house.
By far, the most disturbing sight seen was that of a homeless man dancing through our neighborhood with a hammer in late June, early July, singing loudly about putting holes in people's heads. Some residents say they've seen him with a hammer and chisel, singing an Eminem song.
While I'm no drug-war cheerleader, the thought of that gas mask, cooking apron, the "camper bandits" return, and hammer-guy loomed large as I saw the Tioga camper later that night in the shopping center parked in front of Carl's Jr. When I called the police, I didn't think they would show — I was just hoping they would patrol more often.
One witness photographed the camper being towed that night. He saw one guy getting arrested and two others dragging suitcases out of the camper and kicking things as they headed for one of the suspected drug houses. He checked arrest logs and said that the guy was noted as a transient arrested for petty theft and drug possession.
Another resident spotted the camper a few days later. While it stayed out of the shopping center, the drug dealing didn't appear to. Some of the same people that rolled out of that Tioga camper were hanging out in front of the laundromat the next morning.
Later that same day, a white truck parked and flung its doors open in front of the laundromat — a girl wore roller-skates on the passenger side. This was the moment I first wondered if wide-open doors might be a signal of some sort. The Tioga camper had its hood open, I recalled. Later, I saw the girl sans roller-skates hanging in a black Mercedes.
On July 27, a neighbor told me a homeless guy was hiding in the bushes near my residence — he was making a sandwich when I approached.
Without any prompt, he said: "You look like someone that wants to make a statement downtown in court!… You look like someone that wants to make a statement about product being sold on the street!" His facial expressions and hand gestures were intimidating. He left once neighbors came to my aid. One neighbor had seen him a couple days prior, in a car with Montana plates. Other neighbors said he's a homeless guy who usually hangs out on the corner of Clairemont Mesa and Shawline. Someone else said he's always yelling crazy things.
Right away, a dark SUV parked across the street. The driver, wearing dark sunglasses, stared at my front door. Later that day, two guys were seen crunched down in a black Mercedes eyeballing anyone who came within range of the laundromat. At this point, I felt like I was in a badly directed episode of Breaking Bad.
A few days later, at 3:15 a.m., a neighbor texted that a homeless guy was loitering at my place.
From here, it kicked into high-gear with lots of different cars and people loitering around the laundromat. The only constant was their modus operandi: cars with doors and/or trunks flung open, sometimes with random things piled on their roofs, and always making a show out of folding whatever shirt was laying around in their car. I saw one guy folding the same long-sleeved black shirt off and on for hours.
On August 6, after a few minutes of talking to a homeless couple that sleeps in their car in the laundromat parking lot, a girl walked up and asked me, "Do you know Theresa?" When I answered no, she said, "That's all I need to ask" and turned away.
I learned from someone in the know that "T" names like Tina, Theresa, and Trump are code for meth. I was told dealers sometimes do online ads with code words and any misplaced capital "T" in a word is code for meth.
Glass pipes started making the rounds in early August — in the hands of those using them in broad daylight in the shopping center and stashed in residents' bushes. Several residents informed shopping-center management but got nowhere. Individual store managers weren't much help either.
Are others living near Clairemont shopping centers dealing with this?
Three years ago, Adam moved into his West Clairemont apartment near the Balboa Mesa shopping center (Balboa Avenue and Genesee Avenue). "Everybody has a peculiar neighbor but this is beyond anything I've ever experienced in my life. For the first couple of years, it was just a nuisance with his friends coming over at all hours and seeing all the garbage left behind."