Case 016 - Community - Bullying of shop owner

In April 2000 I opened a shop with an original concept: a bookstore cafe. For the area in North London it is unique. From day one, it was exceedingly successful. Single-handedly, I lifted the value of the street, I brought more customers to the area and therefore more business to everyone - everyone but my neighbour, who owns a sandwich bar next door to me.

Throughout the first six months of opening, I had a few problems with deliveries not arriving, delivery items being stolen, being reported to the Council by my neighbours claiming that I was doing things I hadn't the permission to do. For the first six months I felt like there was always a fire that had to be put out. As a first time business owner, I thought all of this was normal so I would deal with each issue as it arose.

Finally, one day I got a call from one of my suppliers telling me they had received a call from my neighbour who was trying to discredit me and get them to supply her instead. I started putting two and two together finally, and realised that a lot of the start-up problems I experienced was due to her manipulative meddling (she has only been there one year longer than I).

When I blocked all of her efforts towards my suppliers, it got worse. She became threatening and violent. On several occasions she has threatened my life. She will walk up and down outside my windows giving me and my employees a psychopathic grin. She has intimidated some of my customers so much so that they feel they have to go around the block in order to avoid her shop just to come into mine, or they have to cross the street and pretend they are not coming in. She has even attacked a customer of mine! She has verbally abused my employees, my mother and myself. She has accused me of being violent towards her when no such thing has ever happened.

I have called the police so many times now due to the violence of it all. They did warn her, but it's not working. Instead, she has 'recruited' my surrounding neighbours in her campaign of terror, by playing on their sympathy: telling them that I have thrown her to the ground while she was pregnant! So, now I have the other neighbours to deal with as well -- seems like I am now surrounded by a bunch of hooligans.

She has also 'recruited' children and friends now to do her dirty work. I have had my windows smashed twice in less than a month. I have had eggs and firecrackers thrown at us. I have reported everything to the police who I seem to think have their hands tied without clear hard evidence. They also give me the impression that egg throwing isn't such a big deal and that I shouldn't be calling 999 for such a minor incident.

I have written to EVERYONE (councillor of the area, chief of police, CID etc.) and have received very little support. I went to a barrister / solicitor who fear that if I press harassment charges that she will lie her way into getting me in trouble as well - which is most certainly the case. I have installed a camera and have two recordings of the children - but the school (Acland Burghley in Tufnell Park) claim not to be able to tell who it is. I have identified the kids as well in a photo - but nothing is being done.

Meanwhile, business is doing exceedingly well, despite this terror. My customers are the ones who support me and the cafe. Many of them are gay, Jewish or generally artistically inclined and so what seems like persecution by a bunch of hooligans makes 'our kind' stronger. But, I am the one who must hold it all together and lead by example. Only in my solitary moments I wonder if I am strong enough to carry on.