by Tom Lyons

Sarasota Herald-Tribune (

April 10, 2008

An organization battling noise pollution now has its ear tuned to Sarasota as a likely battleground.

Or maybe “battleground” is a bad metaphor. Too noisy.

Anyway, Noise Free America, one of the few organizations that wasn’t sending me e-mail, has found me and wants me to urge Sarasotans to fight for peace and quiet.

NFA feels the pain in our eardrums from all the incredibly loud car stereos it assumes is plaguing us.

I phoned the press contact, Mike Smith, and tried to explain that the noise problem here isn’t all that bad. And that Sarasota is notoriously lacking in tolerance for music at any decibel level louder than a string quartet.

That’s beside the point to Smith, who lives in Virginia, has never been here, and called the city “Saratoga” at one point. The point, he said, is that our nation is being assailed by car stereos, sold to idiots by greedy corporations and retailers, and designed to be obnoxious. Too many Americans think they must put up with that, he said.

“We are under assault,” Smith said.

So he’s delighted that Sarasota’s City Commission is considering an ordinance to let police impound cars that have become noise assault weapons.

Smith, a home health nurse, cites reports that attribute health problems to the powerful, low-frequency vibrations caused by “boom car” amplifiers.

He got involved because his street in Pulaski, Va., was part of a cruising strip where maybe 50 “boom cars” rattled his walls daily. He helped drum up pressure to get police to enforce existing ordinances, and it worked. Police used warning letters and citations and now only two or three “boom cars” a week violate his eardrums.

But he craves what Peoria has. The Illinois city has a law allowing cops to seize those cars.

His organization blasted the America Civil Liberties Union for opposing the idea. The ACLU “seems intent on protecting the ‘rights’ of certain individuals to inflict discomfort on the rest of the population,” a press release says.

I said the ACLU isn’t supporting assault by noise, but its concern is like mine: Letting police impound cars makes them the judge and jury if it costs $500 to get a car back before any chance to take the matter to court.

Smith says the point is that few cars would ever be towed because, once word gets around, the “boom car” fad would quickly die.

I’d prefer that police powers be more limited.

How about we just empower cops to rip out the stereo speakers and stomp them?