by Lynda Harris

I remember when the City of Rutland passed its Noise Ordinance. There seemed to be fewer cars touring our streets with booming base sounds pouring out into our neighborhoods. The police have used the noise ordinance to stop load music permeating the air, barking dogs, even trains parked loudly idling in neighborhoods. So now why can’t the city put an end to the perpetual car alarm that awakens and disturbs our corner of Rutland almost nightly (and daily).

It’s been almost two years now since a neighborhood tenant installed their car alarm, one with high pitched squeals, honking horn and flashing lights. Usually it sounds between 2:00 and 6:00 am, and some nights up to eight times a night, but less frequently during daylight.

The car remains parked on the city street about 30 feet from my six year-old son’s window, and within earshot of another dozen or so school and pre-school age children. Its noise could wake the best of sleepers, and the nightly disturbance is starting to show its wear on my son and other neighbor kids from lack of restful nights sleep and nightmares.

I leave my outside lights on all night hoping to fend off the nightly disturbances to no avail. Perhaps the alarm is too sensitive, or the owner of the alarmed car too insensitive and thinks the value of a car or parking space is greater than that of the children in our city, small children being deprived of an essential night’s peaceful sleep.

Some U.S. cities refer to car alarms as only noise pollution. Perhaps it could be called domestic terrorism. What ever the name, car alarms can certainly turn a peaceful Vermont night into an urban nightmare.

An organization based in New York City, “Silent Majority” founded by Aaron Friedman, has ample research on the internet discussing the cons (no real pros) of auto alarms: “The NYPD has no evidence that alarms are effective, but says they are an “annoying and sometimes unbearable disturbance for residents in their homes.” They “frequently go off for no apparent reason.” And as one of the “signs that no one cares,” they “invite both further disorder and serious crime.”

And further on that point in an article recently published in the winer 2004 issue of CITY JOURNAL. by Brian Anderson: “These infernal noisemakers would be hard to justify even if they did prevent auto theft, as their makers claim. But they don’t: because of their 95-percent false-alarm rate, nobody hears a car alarm blaring and rushes to call the cops. In any case, audio alarms pose no obstacle to the professional “Gone-in-60-Seconds” car thieves responsible for most car thefts these days. Small wonder that nobody, including alarm makers, has ever come up with believable evidence proving that alarms are effective.” He continued, “Car-alarm makers have designed them to aggravate. First, they’re loud. Top models, with menacing names like Viper and Hellfire, boast sirens that hit a painful 125 decibels. “That’s as loud as a jet or a disco, and it’s sounding right outside your window.”

Maybe tonight it’s not your window, but the chance that it will be my window, my street, is pretty high given the way our last few months have gone. And as long as no one else speaks up to say STOP the noise, our night here in Rutland city will be anything but calm.

The Police tell me I need to give them proof. I must get up and call them in the wee hours of the night rather than console my frightened child, or try to fall back to sleep between alarms. I think if the police can stop a train, they certainly should be able to stop a chronic sleep depriving car alarm; we have the noise ordinance, why not use it.

Sign me “looking for peace in the city.”