by Mary McQueen

*Mary McQueen is a Noise Free America member

July 2, 2013

On June 3, I came before this board asking for something meaningful to be done about the boom car noise in my neighborhood, as I have done many times for over 25 years. I’ve been back in Texarkana 31 years. I handed you information about the effective noise control program in Elkhart, Indiana. A few years ago, I gave some city officials information about a noise control training program at Rutgers University. Since I’ve received no feedback on that, I can only assume nobody bothered to check out this resource.

I stated that I want some statistics. Since that time, I’ve gotten some statistics. During the 6 month period December 2012 through May 2013, there were 23 fines assessed for violations in various areas of the city. Most of the fines assessed were for $195.00. As to citations issued during the same period in my immediate neighborhood, there were none. There may have been stops or warnings, but unless a hardcopy citation is issued, the reason for the stop or warning would not be categorized in the computer system. Stops and warnings would not be at all effective, anyway. Also fines of $195 are not effective. In Elkhart, the first offense fine is $250. Second offense is $500, third is $1000, and fourth is $2500. I also think there should be a provision for jail time and confiscation of equipment.

Twenty three fines in six months? You could issue 23 citations in one day within a few block radius of my house.

In March, 2010, the Board voted to increase the fine for repeat violations from $500 to $1000. One board member likened this to racial profiling, without him showing any sympathy to the minority victims. It’s not racial profiling when you are caught doing something that harms others. It’s racial profiling when you are stopped for no reason but the color of your skin. It was claimed the increased fine would produce an economic hardship. Well, if you can afford expensive stereo equipment, you can afford the fine. If you can’t afford the fine, don’t do the crime.

There is also a pattern of noise violators being involved in other crimes. In Elkhart, while stopping the noise violators, the noise control officer did more drug busts than any other officer. There has been a history of crime in my neighborhood.

-In 1996, the Texarkana Gazette published a list of active, somewhat organized gangs. Of the eleven listed, seven were in my immediate neighborhood and to the south of me. As far as I know there are still wannabe gangs, but not to the extent it was back then.

-In December, 2009 there was a murder on my block.

-In October, 2011 we had State Line Sweep, a massive drug bust in which 66 people were accused of conspiring to distribute crack cocaine and engaging in other crimes. Twenty nine were accused of distributing drugs within 1000 feet of a school. Out of 5 locations, twenty- one, or 72% were near Washington 4-A Academy. This school is in the next block to the south of me. Forty were accused of distributing drugs within 1000 feet of public housing. Out of five locations, twenty- three, or 57.5% were making these distributions at Pinehurst Village, which is in the next block to the south of Washington 4A Academy.

-In April, 2013, there was a murder in the next block to the north of me.

I would think that some of the businesses considering locating here would look at the crime statistics. Some may have passed on Texarkana because of the published high crime rate.

Adding to the problems of noise and crime in my neighborhood are the dinky bars and clubs on East Ninth Street, which is two blocks to the north of me. These attract people who don’t care if they create disturbances. I can easily hear the music coming from these places. There is also an unattractive convenience store that attracts people who don’t care about the effect their noise has on the neighborhood. The city thought it a good idea to locate these kinds of businesses adjacent to residential neighborhoods with no requirements for privacy fence, near a public school and not far from a housing project.

Meanwhile, Commercial National Bank thought it was a good idea to close down its branch in this neighborhood. When I was in graduate school in the late 1990s, a Commercial National Bank vice president was a guest speaker in one of my classes. He stated that they don’t have billboards in the East Ninth Street area because “we don’t want their business.” He painted us all with the same brush, but I can assure you that not all of us are criminals. There are many elderly people and children, as well as hard working, decent people. Some of the trouble makers don’t even live in this neighborhood, but they are drawn to it because they know they can get away with what they’re doing.

Let me remind you again, there is a school here. These children don’t need this kind of exposure. A couple of days after the June 3 Board meeting, I was at Walmart on the Arkansas side. Usually, I don’t understand the words coming out of rappers’ mouths. But this time I could plainly hear the “F” word and the “S” word coming from a loud car stereo parked in a space near the front of the store. Passing children don’t need to hear this.

I am asking for a coordinated effort to combat noise and crime. You can’t be your best when you’re being jolted awake at 4:00 a.m. by a passing car stereo. The noise ordinance needs to be tougher. The police department needs to issue citations to those violating the noise ordinance. The judge needs to impose stiffer penalties. The city needs to be careful of the kinds of businesses they allow to operate in certain areas.