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Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Council considers ways to crack down on noise

TAMPA - By the sound of it, noisy neighbors have become a pox on the citizens of Tampa. From the mansions along Bayshore Boulevard to the modest homes of East Tampa, nearly everyone, it seems, has a story to tell about the assault on their eardrums from a nearby house party or a passing car with a thumping stereo. “The residents of most of the neighborhoods are frustrated,” City Councilman Frank Reddick said during a council meeting Thursday. “When they come through, the windows are going to shake.” Reddick proposed revising the city’s noise rules to give police more leeway for ticketing noisy neighbors.
Under the proposal, police could use a standard known as “plainly audible” to decide whether the sound coming from a house, business or parking lot is too much. Reddick wants to set the limit at 50 feet. If an officer can clearly hear the music or other sounds from 50 feet away, the makers could get a ticket. The proposal would loosen the current standard for enforcing noise rules. Now, police have to measure the sound in decibels with a noise meter, a piece of equipment so expensive the Tampa Police Department has just one for each of its three districts, Assistant City Attorney Rebecca Kert told the council. In many cases, by the time an officer retrieves the noise meter and responds to a call from the public, the noise maker has moved on or turned down the volume, Kert said. “What we have on the books right now is constitutional,” Kert told council members. “It’s not always practical to implement in certain parts of the city.” The new rules might apply only to stationary sources of noise. State law bans local governments from restricting cars with teeth-rattling sound systems. But the state law has been in limbo since last fall, when a judge ruled it was unfair because it exempted political and business speech from its restrictions. Legislators are working on a new version of the law that would give local governments room to regulate the intensity of sound coming from cars. House Bill 1019 was approved 12-0 Wednesday by the House of Representatives’ Transportation and Highway Safety Subcommittee. A companion bill in the Senate passed its first committee vote last week. The new bill allows police to ticket drivers whose cars’ sound systems are plainly audible from 25 feet away. It also exempts emergency sirens and car horns from the rules. The change would let local law enforcement ticket noisy vehicles on city streets. City residents urged the council at its meeting Thursday to embrace any authority the Legislature gives them over raucous rides. Said Belmont Heights resident Gladys Jackson, “Why do they have more rights than we do?”

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