by Brittany Ausmus

Indiana Daily (Bloomington, Indiana)

March 6, 2002

Noise Free Indiana founder cites Bloomington’s ‘noise terrorism’

Put in your earplugs Bloomington, and pray that you get some sleep. Bloomington, often thought to be a sleepy college town, has been named to the “Noisy Dozen” this month by Noise Free America. Bloomington is the fifth city to receive this title.

This dubious distinction has been bestowed upon Bloomington because of noise pollution. Ted Rueter, the executive director and founder of Noise Free America, defines noise as unwanted sound.

“Sound becomes noise when it is unwanted and uncontrolled,” he said. “And any sound over 80 decibels is noise. At that level it becomes physically and psychologically harmful.”

The Noise Free America Web site lists common sources of city noise, including cars with loud stereos, leaf blowers, boom boxes, rock concerts and nightclubs.

Noise Free America believes that Bloomington residents are assaulted with a barrage of unwanted noise every day, which lowers the quality of living in the town.

Rueter said one thing Bloomington could do to cut back on the noise is to outlaw boom cars — cars with extremely loud sound systems.

“The federal government regulates every aspect of automobiles but the sound system,” he said. “That doesn’t make sense, and it presents a major safety concern. With the system turned up the driver cannot hear police or fire sirens.”

Rueter added that boom cars are often associated with gang activity, which is why Chicago has outlawed them.

“Chicago has enacted an ordinance that prohibits boom cars,” he said. “If a car can be heard from 75 feet away the car is confiscated and the owner is charged a $610 fine to get it back. Because of these measures, boom car sales have dropped by one third and two boom car shops have closed.”

Rueter adds that even though two shops have closed the measure has done more good than bad.

“This measure has put regard for the public welfare first,” he said.

Thaddeus McCortland, founder of Noise Free Indiana, said that Bloomington has sound ordinances but enforcement is lax.

“City and state have noise ordinances, but enforcement is problematic,” he said in a press release. “There is de facto no enforcement of motor vehicle noise laws by County Sheriff (Steve) Sharp. The Bloomington police do better, but Mayor (John) Fernandez and the Common Council seem to lack the political will to stamp out noise terrorism.”

Doris Sims, the director of the Housing and Neighborhood Development committee, said the “Quiet Nights” initiative, which has been in place for two years, was designed to raise awareness in Bloomington.

“We are making residents aware that noises affect everybody,” she said. “We are spreading the word of “Quiet Nights” through advertising. This initative supports civility between neighbors.”

Bloomington Police Captain Mike Diekhoff said there has been greater enforcement of the “Quiet Nights” ordinances enacted by the city, but the number of complaints is still high.

“It all depends on who you ask, but I am of the opinion that the noise ordinances of Bloomington are productive,” he said. “When responding to a noise complaint, an officer has three choices. He can either write a $50 ticket for violating the city noise ordinance, arrest the owner/leasee of the residence for disorderly conduct, or do nothing. We allow the officers to decide, on the severity of the infraction, what to do.”

Diekhoff added he believes the punishments for infractions are an effective deterrent.

“I know I wouldn’t want a ticket or to be arrested and spend a night in jail because my stereo was turned up too loud,” he said.

Sims said “Quiet Nights” does not apply to students living on campus. Bloomington police can only enforce noise infractions that occur off campus, leaving on campus infractions to the IUPD.