by Cristina Silva
St. Petersburg Times (www.sptimes.com)
February 24, 2008
ST. PETERSBURG – “People on a national scale are sort of fed up. They are tired of listening to this. They are tired of having their neighborhood attacked this way.”
Judy Ellis, who doesn’t want to hear what you’re listening to
To antinoise activist Judy Ellis, there are few things less appetizing than being stuck at a red light next to a car booming music.
Not only is the wail of the song obnoxious, she says, but it is illegal noise pollution.
To fight back against cars that emit loud bass from music speakers, a new complaint program created by Ellis will allow residents to report offenders to City Hall.
The city will then notify the drivers that they potentially violated state law by playing their music too loudly.
“Loud cars are not just a nuisance; it is not just some kid having a good time,” said Ellis, president of the St. Petersburg chapter of Noise Free America, a national nonprofit group that fights noise pollution.
“People on a national scale are sort of fed up. They are tired of listening to this. They are tired of having their neighborhood attacked this way.”
The pilot program, which kicked off last week, will warn drivers of the law, not penalize them, said Susan Ajoc, the city’s neighborhood partnership director. The complaint program is funded by a $500 grant from the St. Petersburg Police Department.
“The intent of this is to raise awareness,” Ajoc said. “There may be some people who have their radio on and don’t know it’s a disturbance.”
State statutes already prohibit noise that is audible outside the vehicle.
The Police Department regularly issues fines to violators, Ajoc said.
The letter program takes enforcement a step further by allowing residents to report the tag numbers of violators to City Hall. Within a week of the complaint, the offenders will receive a polite letter from the city reminding them to be courteous.
Ellis, president of the Lakewood Estates Civic Association, came up with the program partly out of concern for health and safety issues. Loud music can lead to brain and hearing damage or drown out the wail of emergency sirens, she said.
“It sounds almost idiotically simplistic, but one of the ways it works is it tells people that someone is watching them, and somewhere that information has been stored away,” Ellis said of the program.
“We want to let people know that they are not loved by those around them for doing this.”