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Sunday, Dec 21, 2014
Editorials

City should consider expanding noise ordinance

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Tampa is a little quieter thanks to a measure the Tampa City Council passed in June. After fielding complaints from residents sick and tired of enduring the ear-splitting sounds coming from souped-up car stereo systems, the City Council toughened its noise ordinance.

Officers are no longer required to use a decibel meter to record the noise level when in the proximity of loud music emanating from a vehicle. As often was the case, the offending driver had moved on before the decibel meter could record the noise level.

Under the ordinance passed last year, an officer can stand 50 feet or more from the suspected vehicle and listen for the noise. If it can be heard, the driver is in violation of the ordinance and subject to a $250 fine for first-time offenders.

This common-sense approach has gotten results. As the Tribune’s Kevin Wiatrowski reported, the number of people cited in December dropped almost 50 percent when compared with the first month after the ordinance’s adoption. The number of warnings issued dropped from 91 in that first month to 10 in December.

In other words, the ordinance is working. So much so that City Council member Harry Cohen wants to consider expanding the new rules to bars and other commercial establishments that play loud music.

Current law requires decibel meters be used when investigating noise complaints concerning establishments in Ybor City, downtown and Channelside. Elsewhere in the city, police can issue a citation if they can hear the noise 100 feet from the establishment.

With the city’s focus on encouraging residential development in its urban core, we think it makes sense for the council to pursue a noise ordinance that eliminates the need for a decibel meter and treats every establishment equally.

Noise complaints are no trivial matter. Tampa police fielded more than 6,000 noise complaints last year. About 850 of them concerned booming car stereos that disrupt sleep and shatter the quiet in neighborhoods.

The city acted last year to curb the complaints after the state Legislature balked at passing a statewide measure. Some legislators were concerned the crackdown on loud car stereos amounted to racial profiling.

But police in Tampa say many of their complaints came from neighborhoods with large minority populations. City Council Member Frank Reddick, who represents east Tampa, introduced the measure to toughen the ordinance.

The measure passed last year, and the idea to extend it to all establishments in the city, is about bringing peace to neighborhoods by eliminating an obstacle to enforcing the law.

People have a right to enjoy the peace and quiet of their homes, and the City Council is taking the appropriate steps to ensure that right.

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