I live in a small community with a growing noise problem due to vehicles with custom exhaust systems. To more clearly define the issue I have been collecting data from calibrated decibel loggers placed outside and inside homes along different neighborhood streets. I also launched a survey (peer-reviewed to ensure that it is unbiased) on SurveyMonkey. This was launched two weeks ago and to-date it has received 500 responses. An invitation to local Home Owners Associations to have members take the brief survey will go out next week.
Our community of 15 square miles is allocated one officer from the County Sheriff's Department. Noise complaints made to the Sheriff's Office are pretty much ignored.
Noise Levels from Custom Exhaust Systems
If the same noise events due to custom exhaust systems on some streets occurred at a work place, this would literally raise red flags with OSHA. For example, on a regular basis, noise levels registering 120 dB or higher are measured at distances of 140 feet or more for periods of 15 minutes or more.
Warnings issued by apartment managers to drivers of loud vehicles often trigger retaliatory drive byes against the apartment complex. These typically start within one hour of the warning. Over the next five the seven days, the count of noise measurements higher than three sigma decibels higher than the average background noise for the street, more than doubles. (Typically 99.7% of all noise measurements for a given street will fall below the average plus three sigma decibels. The measure being used is the count of noise readings higher than 99.7% of typical noise measurements for a given street.)
Survey Results (thus far)
After approximately two weeks there have been 500 responses to the survey. Barking dogs are the number 1 source of noise with vehicles with custom exhaust systems and stereos as number 2. (Dogs were number 1 in surveys performed by the US EPA in the 70s and 80s). The top noise sources as of today are:
1 Animals (barking dogs, cockerel)
2 Vehicular noise (custom exhausts, stereos)
3 Highway noise
5 DIY (power tools, hammering)
6 Household activities (stereos, parties)
7 Commercial/Utility/Emergency Vehicles
Vehicular exhaust and custom stereo noise was lower in similar polls conducted by US EPA in the 70s and 80s (prior to the de-funding of ONAC).
Impact on Property Values and Ability to Sell Real-estate
As one realtor put it, noise is a raw real-estate nerve. Data from sources such as Zillow-Research show that a single family home in a noisy neighborhood will take 3 to 4 months longer to sell than an equivalent home in a quiet neighborhood. Homes in noisy neighborhoods will typically sell for 10% to 15% less than homes in quiet neighborhoods. The same results have been reported by studies conducted by Booz-Allen-Hamiltor in the United States (1994 - homes near airports) and the Swedish Government. Recorded noise levels in some neighborhoods match noise levels reported near large airports.
Absence of Legal Recourse
Our County Law Director insists that probable cause can only be established by a law enforcement officer. I proposed that citizens should be able to submit actionable complaints using three forms: (1) A screening form that is scored to determine if the complaint is legitimate or not (2) The same form filled out by law enforcement officers and (3) a notarized form that acknowledges the consequences of filing a false report. This was rejected due to concerns on workload.
Neighborhoods that have genuine noise concerns essentially have no effective legal recourse. Fines imposed by a General Sessions court will only encourage retaliation.
Retaliation by Law Enforcement
On more than one occasion, reports made to local law enforcement and local government have been met with retaliatory drive-byes by officers on motorcycles. This typically occurs between 1:30 AM and 2:30 AM following a complaint. The pattern (and this in on video) is an officer pulls close to the home and revs his bike as loud as he can under the nearest window of the person who filed the complaint. The officer then makes a very loud and high speed pass through the neighborhood, returns the spot under the window and revs his bike as loud as he can. This is typically repeated three or more times. Complaints and videos sent to our county law director generate no response what-so-ever.
Who does one talk to when a law enforcement officer is the problem? Who does one talk to when local government does not respond to complaints about a law enforcement officer?