March 1, 2008
Noise Free America
For immediate release
Madison: Kalamazoo, Michigan has won this month’s Noisy Dozen award from Noise Free America for proposing to decriminalize noise offenses. At present, noise violations merit a misdemeanor; under the city’s proposal, they would merely be a civil infraction.
The Kalamazoo Gazette reports that “the 2006 traffic stop of a black Kalamazoo teenager for excessive noise from his car’s stereo may prompt the city of Kalamazoo to decriminalize the offense.” Assistant City Manager Fay Peck has submitted a 28-page report to City Manager Kenneth Collard calling for the change.
The possible policy change emanates from the 2006 arrest of Terance Moore, who was stopped and arrested for playing his car stereo too loudly. Moore’s mother, Yolanda Neals, appealed to the Public Safety Review Appeals Board, claiming that her son was a victim of racial profiling. A jury found Moore not guilty of the noise offense. The Kalamazoo police department maintains the arrest was reasonable, because “Moore gave conflicting answers after the stop and responded, ‘I don’t know’ when police asked if he had guns or drugs in his car.”
According to Assistant City Manager Peck, if noise violations are reduced to civil infractions, police officers could still detain cars with loud stereos. The supposed advantage of the proposed change? Noise violations would no longer “create an arrest record for young people.”
Mike Smith, an anti-noise activist in Pulaski, Virginia, noted that “the noise assault from booming car stereos is rampant across the United States. Stricter noise ordinances are required to combat this intense form of low frequency acoustic terrorism. Kalamazoo is making a grave mistake by considering making noise violations a civil matter and not a criminal offense. They will realize in short order that such a decision will promote more booming noise.”
Smith also observed that “the Terance Moore story only reveals the falsehood that African Americans are the only boomers. It is a wrongful attempt to play the ‘race card’ to get out of a noise violation–which is grossly inappropriate. The problem of booming car stereos is not race-related. If anything, whites own more boom cars across America than any other ethnic group. Kalamazoo should stick with its current noise ordinance–or create even stiffer criminal penalties. If Kalamazoo makes this change, their quality of life will suffer.”
Noise Free America’s director, Ted Rueter, commented that “noise violations are criminal acts, and should be treated as such. The US Department of justice has noted that loud car stereos are often associated with crime, drugs, guns, and gangs. Focusing on boom car offenses is an excellent way of catching criminals. Any suggestion to decriminalize noise violations is absolutely ridiculous.”
Noise Free America is a national citizens organization opposed to noise pollution. Its web site is www.noisefree.org. Past “winners” of the Noisy Dozen award include Echo Manufacturing, Governor Jesse Ventura, and Pioneer Electronics.