by Bill Laitner

Detroit Free Press

August 30, 2011

A Roseville man who complained to city officials about car sound systems disturbing his peace for six years plans to lead a protest rally today as he and neighbors gird for the opening day of school.

“Every morning when school is starting, and every afternoon at dismissal time, it sounds like a thunderstorm,” Mark Roberts said. His house is a block and a half from Roseville High School, he said. Roberts, 50, said he hears the thumping notes of giant car stereos at night, too.

“I’ve slept in my basement some nights, but the subwoofers are so loud now that you not only hear it — you feel it,” anywhere in the house.

Other neighbors said they hear, and feel, the same annoying noise.

“When they come around the corner, my windows shake,” Margaret Hartley said. “When the schools go back after Labor Day, that’s when it gets loud again,” Hartley, 70, said Monday. She plans to join today’s protest, on Gratiot at 13 Mile at 5 p.m.

But the police department and city officials said the complaints are overstated, pointing to how difficult it is to catch mobile sources of sound and to enforce quality-of-life ordinances.

“We’ve spent untold hours out there (in Roberts’ neighborhood) and we simply haven’t found it to be that big a problem,” Roseville Deputy Police Chief James Berlin said. The city’s noise ordinance can fine offenders $250 and jail them for up to 90 days, and “we do write a few tickets,” Berlin said.

“You have to hear this to enforce it,” Chief Michael Pachla said. Pachla said he and the city manager once sat at Roberts’ kitchen table for an hour but did not hear excessive noise.

“That was just one of those things” — the rare day when the streets were quiet, Roberts admitted. At his instigation, the non-profit Noise Free America in Albany, N.Y., cited Roseville in October in a list of a dozen towns nationwide with excessive sound pollution.

On the group’s Web site are model ordinances for cities that want to silence their noise makers, Noise Free America director Ted Rueter said. He thinks Roseville should imitate the policy of Elkhart, Ind., where police found a link between boom boxes and criminal activity, Rueter said.

“They have fines going up to $2,000, and they have two police officers who do nothing but enforce the ordinance. In two years, they generated more than $400,000 in fines, and those two officers have gotten more drug arrests and more gun arrests and found more people with outstanding warrants than any other two cops,” he said.

Contact Bill Laitner: 586-826-7264 or [email protected]