When Sheila Reavill first moved to East Harvest Road in Acampo in 2012, she thought she was moving to a quiet rural neighborhood.
“Slowly, I started to realize this is not the neighborhood I thought it was,” Reavill said. “Ninety-five percent of the time it’s peaceful, it’s quiet. It’s that other five percent that will drive people away.”
Reavill said she and her neighbors have had problems with transients, drug use, loose dogs, speeding cars and motorcycles, fireworks and more several times a week.
“I’ve had drug deals in front of my house. I’ve had homeless people sleeping in front of my house,” Reavill said.
The majority of the problems stemmed from neighboring properties owned by Bryan Keith Bristow — a convicted sex offender who was the subject of a manhunt in early February — and his family, Reavill said.
Bristow was arrested in Lodi by the Lodi Police Department in late February on suspicion of failing to register as a sex offender after moving to San Joaquin County from Oregon, where he was originally convicted in 1993 of first-degree sodomy and first-degree sexual abuse — both felonies — in October 1993.
“All roads lead to that property,” Reavill said. “I’m not saying all of it comes from there, but a significant portion of it comes from there.”
Tired of feeling intimidated by the Bristow family and their associates, Reavill said she and several of her neighbors formed the Harvest Road Neighborhood Watch two years ago with Reavill as the captain.
The neighborhood watch spent the first two years building trust with one another, Reavill said, along with an email chain documenting the various problems they experienced with the Bristows and their guests.
The turning point that finally motivated Reavill and her neighbors to file a Safe Streets lawsuit against Bryan Bristow came in September of last year, she said, with a series of loud explosions originating from the Bristow property next door to her home.
“A lot of times, it was right before you went to bed,” Reavill said. “There are so many people associated with that property, and they’re troublemakers.”
The San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office suggested filing the lawsuit, Reavill said, so she and her neighbors began drafting a letter listing their complaints as well as the California civil code that applies to the lawsuit.
Although she initially had trouble finding it, Reavill said she was eventually able to locate a deed for the property that listed Bryan Bristow as the responsible party and served him the first letter signed by 25 people.
After serving the first letter, Reavill said one of Bryan Bristow’s relatives responded with a letter of her own threatening a lawsuit against Reavill and her neighbors.
“It was very intimidating,” Reavill said. “I didn’t feel comfortable talking with them.”
Reavill and her neighbors experienced additional problems from the Bristow family and their associates, she said, mostly involving burning trash.
“Every other week, I’d go outside and smell trash burning,” Reavill said.
Although many of the original 25 neighbors have since dropped out of the lawsuit — some felt threatened by the Bristows, while others had health issues or other reasons — Reavill and four of her neighbors have not yet given up the fight for safety on their street. Their court date is set for May 10, she said.
Reavill is suing for $10,000 and her four neighbors are suing for $5,000 each, she said, although she considers the lawsuit to be a tool to motivate her neighbors to clean up their yard and stop causing a nuisance.
“We’re not in this for the money, we’re in this for the peace and quiet,” Reavill said. “We’re still going to go ahead with the lawsuit, but we are willing to talk with our neighbors.”
Another of Bryan Bristow’s relatives has contacted Reavill and said they have been working with San Joaquin County Code Enforcement to clean up the property, Reavill said.
Although she still wants a judgment from the court, Reavill said she would be willing to let things go if the Bristows keep their property clean and kick out the troublemakers.
“We’re not out to get anybody, we just want people to act civilly and be good neighbors,” Reavill said. “We want to be good neighbors, too.”
Reavill also hopes for another outcome: For people to know that they can change their neighborhoods of they go through the proper channels — calling the authorities and documenting everything while remaining calm— and that they do not have to live in fear.
“We are no longer afraid,” Reavill said.