Image courtesy of the City of Red Deer

by Jeanine Botta, MPH, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

Earlier this month, Arline Bronzaft wrote about Operation Quiet-Down, a program introduced by New London Police to address increasing noise complaints that followed the easing of the pandemic lockdown. With this program, police use the enforcement process as a chance to educate residents about the city’s noise code. It’s clear that NLPD is more interested in health and safety education than it is in issuing fines.

New London isn’t the only city in Connecticut to include health education in its strategy to address community noise. Eighty-six miles southeast of New London, another city that faces the Long Island Sound was experiencing higher noise levels. As COVID lockdown restrictions eased, Stamford nightlife returned with rooftop revelry and raucous indoor and outdoor parties–and noise complaints increased. In Stamford, law enforcement responded to noise complaints, but they took it a step further. City government created the Restaurant and Bar Task Force, made up of members of the Stamford Police Department, representatives from the Environmental Health and Inspections Department, and the Fire Marshal’s Office. The goal of the task force is to educate and enforce the noise ordinance and other legal requirements. From Thursday evenings through the weekend, the task force strolls through lively areas in the South End, Downtown, and other neighborhoods, interacting with the public and ensuring that the festivities are relatively peaceful.

Charlotte, North Carolina, also uses a strategy to provide education about its noise code. 
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department responds to noise complaints and handles enforcement, and Code Enforcement representatives educate residents about the city’s noise ordinance and follow up with noise violators, in some cases developing noise mitigation plans.

Twenty-four hundred miles to the north and west in Alberta, Canada, the City of Red Deer recently passed a new community standards bylaw that addresses noise. The new bylaw allows for the ability to designate certain properties as “chronic nuisance properties” which enables enforcement agencies to charge owners a fee every time they are called to the property. 
Several municipalities in British Columbia in Canada have had success using this method.

The legislation’s crafting was informed by citizen feedback during several community engagement sessions, and Red Deer has a history of strong community involvement regarding quality of life and safety issues. Its government website features an educational piece on constructively dealing with neighbor noise. In 2016, Red Deer municipal staff organized an event to test decibel levels of residents’ vehicles. This appeared in the Facebook announcement:

Do you ‘Know Your Noise’ ? Motorists are encouraged to bring their car, truck or motorcycle out and rev their engines to see if they fall within the acceptable range for noise. We would like motorists to be aware of when their vehicle sound emissions cross the line to become excessive and at risk of violating the Alberta Traffic Safety Act or The City of Red Deer Community Standards Bylaw. There will be an amnesty period given to those whose vehicles are seen as being in violation of existing noise regulations.

Discussions about noise can be emotional and contentious. Framing noise topics with health education, public engagement-–and fun, cool graphics-–can set a different tone.

Jeanine Botta serves on the Board of Directors of Right to Quiet, and serves as a founding member of the Noise and Health Committee within the Environment Section of the American Public Health Association.