by Paige Akin

Richmond Times-Dispatch

April 1, 2003

Local Man Crusades for Peace and Quiet

Anti-noise activists want to say it loud and clear: Turn down those bass-bumping, heart-thumping car stereos, Richmond.

They argue that loud music threatens homeland security and leaves the city vulnerable to a terrorist attack.

“If you’re consistently hearing rumbling in your home and your cars, you don’t know whether it’s a bomb, an earthquake or what’s going on,” said Randy Throckmorton, a local gadfly. “People are begging for peace and quiet. I’m fighting urban terrorism.”

Throckmorton also contends loud music “causes older folks to have strokes and heart attacks” and makes it difficult for other motorists to hear emergency vehicles.

Three-year battle

He said he has been fighting for tougher noise laws in Richmond for three years, but police and the city’s Public Safety Committee have ignored his pleas. He is joined in his noise-fighting efforts by former Councilwoman Reva M. Trammell, who now serves as community-relations coordinator for the Richmond Sheriff’s Department.

“[Councilman] Manoli Loupassi has failed,” Throckmorton said.

Loupassi heads the safety committee, which deals with issues ranging from homicide rates to fire safety. He agreed noise is a serious quality of life issue but said he has done all he can to address the problem.

About two years ago, he pushed for a change in the city’s noise ordinance law from a Class 4 misdemeanor, which carries a maximum $250 fine, to a Class 2 misdemeanor, which can carry up to $1,000 in fines and six months in jail.

“We took a big step in really upping the penalties, but I don’t feel like it’s improved anything,” Loupassi said. “People are still driving down the street, with their windows down or up, just torturing people. Nobody gets six months in jail. They probably get a $50 fine.”

Wants police crackdown

Throckmorton is calling for a crackdown by city police, where they would make hundreds of arrests for noise violations. Throckmorton said he wants Chief Andre Parker to implement a zero-tolerance policy on so-called “boom cars.”

With a shortage of police officers, that task is difficult, Loupassi said.

“I don’t disagree with him. I think that we need to have greater enforcement in these areas. We need to have prosecutors pushing, and we need to have judges who are willing to punish.”

Throckmorton said he’d like Richmond’s noise crackdown modeled after that of New York City.

“If [New York] Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg can do it, I know that [Richmond Mayor] Rudy McCollum and Andre Parker can do it,” Throckmorton said.

Last October, Bloomberg launched “Operation Silent Night,” a program targeting excessive noise in the five boroughs. The program includes sound meters to measure the level of noise and towing of cars that violate noise ordinances.

In two months, New York police had issued 624 noise summonses, the mayor’s spokesman Jerry Russo said.

Last year, Richmond police received 8,916 calls for excessive noise. Those include residential calls for disturbances.

“But that doesn’t mean we took a report every time,” said Jennifer Reilly, a police spokeswoman.

How many fines have been doled out for “creating any unreasonably loud and disturbing noise” is unclear.

In January 2002, Richmond received the “Noisy Dozen” award from Noise Free America. Ted Rueter, the group’s executive director, commented that “Richmond has an epidemic of boom cars, loud exhaust systems and loud pipes.”

Affected personally

In the fight against loud noise, Throckmorton has his own ax to grind – he lives about 125 feet from a recycling company and next to a busy car wash. He says he has to wear earplugs to sleep at night, which then cause him ear pain during the day.

Loupassi said the issue of noise is bigger than Richmond. Loud music is a problem statewide, and he believes state government should address it.

“I have made a point that we ought to have a zero-tolerance policy for all types of crime,” he said. “If you do that, you have a more law-abiding citizenry. These little nuisance crimes – property damage, graffiti, littering, excessive noise – these are things I would like to see us be all over people for.”

Contact Paige Akin at (804) 649-6671 or [email protected]