For immediate release
February 25, 2022
Chapel Hill: The city of Knoxville, Tennessee has won a “Healthy Soundscape” award from Noise Free America: A Coalition to Promote Quiet for installing a noise-monitoring camera downtown. This action
has the potential to greatly improve the quality of life in downtown Knoxville.
Knoxville city officials are responding to the fact that “noise complaints are up. Downtown residents and business owners are tired of motorists with illegally-modified vehicles, or those who choose to loudly rev their engines. So the city is taking the next step to remedy the problem by installing and trying out a mobile camera that captures data associated with distinct violations of the city’s vehicle noise ordinances.”
The camera will be installed at the intersection of Gay Street and Clinch Avenue. The city government describes the camera as “a tool to gather information on noise ordinance violations and help inform enforcement. The camera is on loan at no cost to the city, and after a pilot program, the city will assess the value of the data collected and decide whether to incorporate such a camera” in the future. The 24 Acoustics camera “records two-directional video, which captures the license plate number of unusually loud vehicles.”
City officials note that “while the camera footage alone cannot be used as the basis for issuing any noise violation citations, warnings may be issued, and the trends that are verified by the data can lead to more effective enforcement.”
Doug Kimzey, a Noise Free America member who works in Knoxville, stated that “the trial use of a noise-monitoring camera from UK-based 24 Acoustics Ltd. in downtown Knoxville is a positive step, as it demonstrates some commitment to noise reduction.”
“However,” Kimzey noted, “since the camera footage alone cannot be used as the basis for issuing any noise violation citations, the cameras will provide a limited assessment of the noise issues on South Gay Street. The most likely outcome will be that individuals with loud exhaust systems and stereos will intentionally focus on sections of South Gay Street that are not covered by the cameras. This could result in an underestimation of the noise problem near the intersections where the cameras are installed.”
Unfortunately, noise complaints from citizens in downtown Knoxville are considered “anecdotal.” This means the complaints alone are not considered actionable information: “A successful program to reduce noise in any community,” Kimzey stated, “requires the active participation of law enforcement, including issuing citations. Monitoring noise events is essential to determine if noise levels are increasing, decreasing, or remaining the same.”
Kimzey concluded that “opponents of expanding noise-reduction cameras make arguments based on cost, available manpower, and legality. Any difficulties encountered during the trial will add weight to arguments to shelve any further attempts to reduce noise. Downtown residents should be prepared to ask tough questions about the assessments of the noise situation produced by this trial. There is a great deal of work to be done before noise levels in downtown Knoxville are reduced.”
Ted Rueter, director of Noise Free America: A Coalition to Promote Quiet, observed that “it is encouraging that Knoxville city government is taking motor vehicle noise seriously. Noise cameras are one tool to reduce noise—as well as tough ordinances, public relations campaigns, police training, and strict police enforcement. City governments and police departments need to take strong action to reduce the growing menace of motor vehicle noise.”
Noise Free America: A Coalition to Promote Quiet is a national citizens’ organization devoted to noise reduction. Past winners of the Healthy Soundscape award include the New York state legislature and governor; West Chester, Pennsylvania; and Portland, Oregon.