by Sara Kandel

June 1, 2011

A group of just over a dozen residents gathered on Gratiot Avenue last week in a protest effort they’re calling Ban the Boom Box.

They say it’s an epidemic. Cars driving down their streets blaring music so loud that they can feel the vibrations from the bass inside their homes.

“We’re just looking for respect, not just for us, for everyone,” said Roseville resident Mark Roberts. “It’s just not cool to boom people out of their minds, houses and cars.”

Roberts is the main force behind the movement and he organized the protest at Gratiot and Common at 5 p.m. on May 24. But some people who meet him might be surprised he heads a group called Ban the Boom Box: At the protest he donned an electric green ball cap with fake long brown hair attached to it.

“I like my music loud too, but there is a time and place for it,” he said.

Roberts is not against the music, he’s against its decibel levels being felt inside his home. He said it’s rude and inconsiderate and it needs to be stopped before it becomes a social norm.

“I’ve had the mayor, the chief of police and the city manager all at my kitchen table, and they all tell me the same thing: Their hands are tied.”

There is a sound ordinance in Roseville but when the source of the noise is mobile, it’s much more difficult to enforce.

City Manager Steve Truman said it’s a problem, but not one unique to Roseville.

“We issue tickets for it but we have to witness it to write a ticket,” Truman said.

The city follows through on complaints by going out and educating the person making it on the noise ordinance.

“The police tell you to go out and get a plate number; well, I did that and then I get hit in the head,” said Roseville resident Jerry Adams. “People don’t like it when you get their plate numbers.”

For Adams, it’s more about respect than anything. A few of the loud cars he’s reported are regulars on his street in the 12 Mile Road and Utica area. He tried asking his neighbors to keep the volume down until they are on the main streets, and when that didn’t work he invited two elderly ladies from across the street over and the three of them blasted polka music from his stereo.

Adams said the bass vibrations are so strong that they knocked a 30-pound muskie off his wall.

“I woke up to an open-mouthed fish falling on my chest,” he said. “It scared the hell out of me.”

Roseville resident Dennis Parzynsk has the same problem with bass vibrations inside his home. He said when loud cars drive by, his entire coffee table rattles. But police told him they can’t do anything about it unless he captures the disturbance on camera and gets the plate number of the offending vehicle, he said.

Other residents at the protest claimed they are now wearing ear plugs in their homes because they find the noise so invasive.

One resident who asked to only be mentioned by her first name, Jan, said she had special earplugs made to fit her ears, but they bother her if she wears them to long. She was there with her friend Chris, who was wearing earplugs at the protest to make a point.

It wasn’t just Roseville residents at the protest. One man came from as far as Flint. Leslie Croo said “boom” cars are a problem there, too. The Vietnam veteran is a member of Noise Free America, a national group with which Ban the Boom Box is affiliated.

“We are calling it assault because it’s deafening, and for someone that’s been in a war zone, some of the sounds that are eerily similar are uncomfortable to hear,” Croo said.

Croo likened their movement to the work of famed activists like Martin Luther King and Susan B. Anthony.

“Some of the greatest political changes in this country were inspired by peaceful protests, and that’s what we are doing because we couldn’t think of any other way to generate change,” he said.

Croo and Roberts said they might plan another protest over the summer, but nothing had been set as of press time. For information on future protests and the Ban the Boom Box movement, email [email protected].

Roseville — one of America’s noisiest cities?

It was widely reported after the May 24 anti-“boom” car protest that Roseville is one of the noisiest cities across the nation, beating out Detroit, Chicago, Las Vegas and New York.

The report came from the group of citizens protesting and was backed by the organization Noise Free America.

On their website, claims that “in Roseville, there are hundreds of cars with super-powered subwoofer speaker systems pounding the streets, booming and thumping, day after day, disturbing everyone.”

The site also says that the streets of Roseville sound like a “thunderstorm” day and night from the loud vibrations from car audio systems.

Is it true though? Is Roseville one of the noisiest cities in America?

City Manager Steve Truman says it’s not. “I’ve spoken with the people at Noise Free America and they make the determination based on emails, not a scientific study or survey. They said they received one email from a Roseville resident and one from a nonresident.”

In their write-up about Roseville, there are only two sources cited; they do not validate the “Noisy Dozen” award for Roseville with any sort scientific accreditation or proof of noise level.

Truman said excessive noise from vehicles is a problem, but he doesn’t think it’s centralized to Roseville. And he doesn’t believe it is as bad as Mark Roberts, the founder of the grassroots organization Ban the Boom Box, makes it out to be.

“I’ve sat at Mr. Roberts’ kitchen table for an hour after school let out — the time he said it is the worst — and I heard nothing,” Truman said.

Past winners of the “Noisy Dozen” award include Kalamazoo and Flint.