A reclusive Pico Rivera-area couple have bowed to county pressure and toned down household security measures that brought them unwanted national attention and alarmed their neighbors.
Billy and Fyrn Davis had fortified their home with a spiked fence topped in places with razor wire, 27 500-watt spotlights and other devices to battle crime.
But they couldn’t fight City Hall.
Neighbors’ complaints about the house prompted zoning inspectors to slap the property with violation notices that carried the threat of a jail sentence for Billy Davis.
Word of the dispute brought a stampede of television reporters and news helicopters for a firsthand look at the armed security guard in the driveway, the Doberman in the yard, the caged patio, the video monitors and the laser-beam alarms.
The house made Time magazine.
In the end, Davis agreed to comply with county regulations by moving the fence and dismantling the lights and lasers.
But neither the Davises nor other residents are completely satisfied with the outcome of the dispute over property and privacy rights.
Fyrn Davis said she and her husband are victims--not just of crime, but of a government’s misplaced efforts.
“They made this a priority,” she said. “I see nothing about this that should be a priority over the criminals out there killing people. We feel it’s more of a political society than a society of justice.”
Neighbors said they are pleased that the county took action, but still are dissatisfied with the property, which remains visibly fortified.
“Would you like that house next door to you?” asked Janet Hodges, a leader of the local neighborhood association. “And if you were trying to sell your house, would people buy your house if they saw that house down the street? They would wonder what they were buying into.”
Billy Davis said he had no idea that some of his security measures were illegal. He learned that his spiked fence extended illegally onto county property, that the hardware for his laser beams protruded above legal height limits and that his spotlights were too high and were erected without a permit.
Davis also learned that he could spend a year in jail if he did not comply with zoning laws. Davis has sued the contractors who performed the illegal work, said attorney Neil J. Falley, who represents the family.
Earlier this month, one of the contractors agreed to move the fence 12 feet back from the street.
Davis also hired workers to dismantle the 10- and 12-foot poles that supported his motion-sensitive spotlights. The lights used to illuminate his yard like a ballpark when a car drove past.
Also uprooted is the sophisticated laser alarm system that cost $5,300 to install and $390 to take down. It used to encircle the yard with invisible beams that would set off alarms when triggered.
Billy Davis motioned with his left hand at piles of lights in rusting metal cages and other security system debris filling most of his two-car garage. His right arm was in a sling, the result of a shoulder infection aggravated by the stress of the dispute, he said.
The couple still fear crime. Fyrn Davis said that her husband has received threatening phone calls and that within the last month someone broke a window and threw a burning object over the fence.
During one recent month, the family called the Sheriff’s Department 60 times to report suspected intruders. Officers said the Davises’ fears are genuine, but investigators have never found any intruders.
Deputies said the neighborhood of two- and three-bedroom homes includes gang members and taggers, but the crime rate is no worse than in other nearby middle-class areas.
Although residents formed a neighborhood association to deal with the Davis property, they also organized improvement efforts, such as painting over graffiti, a community anti-gang forum and a successful lobbying effort to reopen a community pool.
In late September, the association has plans for an outdoor barbecue, to which the Davises have been invited. “We still consider them part of the neighborhood,” Hodges said.
The Davises, however, do not sound excited about the party. And they plan to move eventually.
In the interim, they have installed another alarm system--inside the house.