September 16, 2013
Noise Free America
For immediate release
Chapel Hill: Harris county, Texas has won this month’s Noisy Dozen award from Noise Free America for failing to enforce the Texas disorderly conduct statue and allowing a “Wild West” approach to noise. While Harris county has the third-largest sheriff’s department in the nation, Sheriff Adrian Garcia is clearly not using the department’s resources to protect the community’s right to peace and quiet.
Patrick Young, a ten-year resident of Harris county, states that “the noise situation in Houston and the county is out of hand. There is constant noise from construction, motorcycles, boom cars, leaf blowers, and cars without mufflers. I am committed to helping others who also are subjected to unwanted and unlawful noise in Harris county. Quiet enjoyment of our homes and neighborhoods is a right which should be protected by local law enforcement.”
Young lives in a “master planned community” in Harris county. For the last seven years, he and his family have been subjected to live amplified rock bands playing in the back yard of a neighbor from 6:00 pm until 11:00 pm or later: “This creates a public disturbance, in violation of the Texas disorderly conduct statute. The neighbor’s behavior is well outside of acceptable conduct in our community.” Young notes that “the latest illegal event was held on July 20, 2013, and multiple complaints to the Harris county sheriff’s department over the years have been ignored.”
The noisy neighbor is an elected official with a county taxing district. After learning this, Young filed a complaint with Harris county sheriff’s Department office of Internal Affairs for non-enforcement of the disorderly conduct statute. The complaint was not sustained–despite the official recorded statements of the deputy that she heard the band in her car with the windows rolled up after 11:00 pm, and that the public official disclosed their position to the officer during the encounter. Incredibly, the deputy believed a noise meter was required to enforce the law– contrary to departmental policy. The deputy also stated her belief that she “could get in big time trouble” for enforcing the disorderly statute in that neighborhood.
The Harris county sheriff’s department has offered various excuses for not enforcing the disorderly conduct statute:
-Dispatcher: “Made him aware of the lack of noise ordinance in the area.”
-Patrol officer: “I don’t have a decibel meter. I can’t issue a citation without that anyway.”
-Supervisor: “There is no noise ordinance in Harris county. If a complaint is called in, the sheriff’s office will respond and ask the ‘offender’ to be respectful of their neighbor and limit unnecessary noise. But if they refuse to do so, the sheriff’s department has no authority to take any further action.”
Young stated, “Each statement demonstrates a lack of knowledge regarding departmental policy and the lack of commitment to enforcing the Texas disorderly conduct statute. State law fully empowers the sheriff’s department to address illegal noise and to cite offenders.”
Young concludes, “With a law enforcement background myself and as a taxpayer in Harris county, I do not appreciate the proposition that the Harris county sheriff’s department can pick and choose the laws it will enforce. They have repeatedly chosen not to enforce the Texas disorderly conduct statute. I have asked to meet with Sheriff Garcia to address the lack of training, lack of equipment, and poor attitude toward complying with the department’s legal obligations, but his office has not responded. This is a direct reflection on the inadequate leadership of Sheriff Garcia on this issue.”
Noise Free America is a national non-profit organization devoted to noise reduction. Houston also won the Noisy Dozen award in March 2004 and November 2011.