KIRBY -- Betsie and Bob Collier’s rental property has new tile floors, new paint and it’s located in a quiet Kirby neighborhood. The single-story, stone home has curb appeal, too, until eyes settle on the neighbor’s home.
The scene at the door has already stopped passing traffic, as drivers lean over to ask, “Do you know what happened here?”
Yellow caution tape blocks entrance to the front door in the 4300 block of Lehman Drive. A bold, yellow, official-looking sign announces a crime scene -- until a closer look at the small print reveals the fictitious signature of "Sgt. Bubble Balls, Chief Investigator, City Police Department."
It’s supposed to be a gag, but it’s not that funny to the Colliers next door. They say their house, that used to take a few days to lease, sits empty because potential renters are scared.
“We’re trying to get folks in here that will accent the community and the neighborhood, be good customers for us, but also good neighbors,” Bob Collier said.
The Colliers said they've tried talking to the homeowner. Then, when the crime tape remained up, they called Kirby police and the city’s code compliance department.
Both agencies told them the door decoration is protected speech.
“They say it’s a freedom of expression. But, I’d like to know what they are expressing by ‘this is a crime scene,’” Betsie Collier said.
The offending neighbor, Rebecca Cannady, answered KENS 5’s knock at the door. She said she’s surprised at the fuss over a joke.
“My neighbors don’t mind, just them,” said Cannady, as she pointed at the Collier home.
But for the Colliers, the punch line hits below the belt.
“What about our rights? That’s right of expression. How about the right of commerce, the right to have a business, the right to survive?” Betsie Collier said.