by Carla Moore

While boom cars are the most egregious source of noise terrorism in Youngstown, Ohio, they are by no means the only form of noise terrorism here. Citizens are also inundated with incessantly barking dogs, loud motorcycles, cars without mufflers, loud gunshots, and loud music emanating from their neighbors’ houses.

Frequent noise from one of these sources is maddening. Now imagine if you were forced to deal with several of these agitations on a daily basis. Now you’re coming close to having an idea of what it is like to live in Youngstown.

I became involved with noise pollution in March of 2001. This region experienced a very warm spring and the boomers seemed to come out in force! The constant noise from boomers driving up and down the streets or neighboring streets every few minutes, pulling into the driveways of neighboring homes for long periods of time, or boomers hanging out on the street with the bass cranked up as loud as possible, became unbearable. I was frequently awakened at all hours of the night. During the day, boomers regularly interrupted my daily routine and the lives of my family members. We could no longer sleep, eat, pray, study, read, entertain guests, talk on the phone, watch the news, listen to our own music, or just relax and be alone with our thoughts without being interrupted by boomers.

Perfect strangers were controlling my life! My home was being trespassed upon at the whim of others and I had no say about it. Any person or “thing” that enters my home without my permission is guilty of trespassing! I have my own music. I have a satellite dish that beams over 47 music channels into my home, a stereo system, several radios, a walkman, and a computer with access to thousands of music stations from all over the world. I should not have to listen to someone else’s music in my home against my will. What gives strangers the right to decide what I should listen to and when I should listen? I can’t believe that I have the right to decide what religion I will practice but I don’t have the right to decide what music I will listen to in my own home! How ridiculous is that? Whatever happened to civil liberties?

In early April 2001, I began to suffer from sleep deprivation. I would go to bed and be awakened by boomers no less than two or three times a night. My school work began to suffer as a result. What’s more, I’m the caretaker for an elderly, disabled parent. Therefore, I was often forced to try to find a relative who could come to my house on short notice and take over for me when I sought a quiet place to study. I even began to avoid my own house as much as possible! I can’t tell you what an inconvenience it is not to be able to use your own house how and when you want to!

In mid-April, I called the police department and advised them of what was going on in my neighborhood. I asked for assistance. I was advised by the cops to call whenever a boomer was in the area; they promised that a car would be dispatched to locate and cite the offender.

I followed the advice given to me by the police department; however, the matter only seemed to get worse. The cops were too slow in their response and the boomers always seemed to magically leave just before the cops arrived. After a few weeks of calling the police, it was evident to me that it was useless. What’s more, it seemed that the more I called the cops, the more hell the boomers raised!

After a few more weeks of enduring this, I called my councilman. I explained to him what was going on and that the police were not helping at all. My councilman actually chuckled at my agitation and explained that he had “an old guy” living around the corner from him who was also “complaining” about a boomer who frequently pulled into a driveway across the street from the man’s house for “five minutes or so.” I could tell from the tone of his voice that he felt the issue was trivial and that his neighbor and I were just “complainers.” Nonetheless, he promised to help me. I was advised to call the cops often, because “it’s the squeaky wheel that gets greased.” Well, I can tell you from experience that that’s one old wive’s’s tale that is just not true. I squeaked and I squeaked all summer long. And the boomers boomed and they boomed and they boomed all the more.

Nonetheless, I did not give up. Over the course of the last year, I have filed numerous complaints with the police department, I’ve had the police in my home, I’ve driven around my neighborhood taking down the addresses of houses with boomers who had parked in my driveway, I’ve sent information from the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse to my police department. I’ve written letters to my councilman, Congressman, the mayor, and the ACLU. I’ve spoken to dozens of lawyers, the city prosecutor, the sheriff’s department, and the drug task force. You name it, I’ve done it. Yet it seems all my efforts have been in vain.

In the beginning, I sympathized with the police department. Youngstown is an extremely violent and crime-ridden city. Murders, shootings, stabbings, rapes, car jackings, kidnappings, beatings, drug deals, prostitution, and various forms of corruption by public officials are normal, everyday occurrences here. They have been for many years. So I tried to be understanding of the police department’s situation. I’ve called the police at times and was told there were several calls ahead of me with the same complaint. I was also told in one conversation with a captain that “if something more important” comes up, the loud music calls are often not answered at all!

I soon began to realize that even when there is no major crime occurring, the police just don’t take this issue seriously. Even though music and bass complaints constitute the number one complaint made to the police department (according to the Youngstown Vindicator), the police department just doesn’t care. Whenever editorials are written or a reporter does a story on loud music in Youngstown, city officials are the first to give lip service to the issue and pledge their support of efforts to stop it. However, actions speak louder than words; or, more appropriately, the boom speaks louder than the rhetoric.

For example, it became clear to me by May that my block was being targeted and that the boomers were harassing me. Boomers would often pull into my driveway with the bass cranked up at 2:00 am, pretending to turn around. I would be startled out of my sleep by the boomer who lives behind me. On several occasions, after calling the police, I would notice boomers driving by my house very slowly, laughing and gesturing toward my house with the bass cranked up as loud as possible. What wasn’t clear to me was how they knew someone was calling the police on them. More importantly, how did they know it was me?

What I found out was shocking. It turns out that the boomers all have police radio scanners in their cars! They know exactly when a citizen calls the police on them. If the person leaves his or her name, the dispatcher also calls that name out across the radio for the boomers to hear.

I knew never to leave my name, so I’m still wondering how the boomers knew I was calling. Believe it or not, I have a cop living one door away. I truly believe he ratted me out to some of our bass booming neighbors, whom he is friends with.

I learned about the scanners after I called the police and asked them how the boomers always seemed to know when I called about them. I asked the police if they knew they were being monitored by the boomers. I asked why they continued to use a public radio frequency.

I never received an answer to this question. Somewhere along the way, however, I did learn that the police have private modes of communication, such as private channels and digital cell phones.

All of this proves my point. The police are well aware of the fact that they are warning boomers beforehand that they are coming. Now, the boom boys may be ignorant, rude, and arrogant–but they aren’t fools! Even boomers are smart enough not to sit and wait for the police to arrive and write them a ticket! If the police were truly interested in stopping the boomers, they would not use a public radio frequency to alert them. I always thought the element of surprise was the biggest asset in police work. I guess I’ve been watching too much TV.

There is a second problem with the police broadcasting to boomers each time someone calls them. It creates a hostile living environment for the citizen reporting the noise. Because of the lack of discretion by the police department, citizens are often left vulnerable to acts retaliation. At this point in my journey, I can honestly say that I am sorry that I ever called the police. They only made matters worse for me.

As an aside, a year ago in Youngstown, drug dealers (all boomers) and their customers took over an older neighborhood occupied by senior citizens. Neighbors were afraid to call the police, but after a year or more they finally got up the nerve to call and ask for help. One elderly gentleman called and reported that a drug deal was occurring outside his home. The man left his name and address with the dispatcher, who promptly broadcast the man’s name, address, and complaint across the radio The boomers heard it and began to terrorize the man and his neighbors. They threw garage on porches, shot guns near people’s homes, and broke windows. All of this could have been avoided had the police department handled the matter with discretion and professionalism.

The Youngstown police still failed to clean up that neighborhood! The people had to sneak and talk to a reporter at the newspaper (anonymously, of course). Only then did the police move in and do something. Because of incidents like this, many people are afraid to call the police about boomers, fearing retaliation and possible physical harm. It is this fear, along with the police department’s refusal to address the issue, that allows boom boys to operate virtually unchallenged.

I could go on and on and recite verbatim the ridiculous conversations, arguments, and debates I’ve had with the police department over their lack of enforcement of laws designed to protect citizens from noise terrorism. But I won’t. The point I want to make is simply this: the boom car boys of America are doing what they are being allowed to do.

Our fight is with the minds, attitudes, practices, and procedures of our local law enforcement officers and our elected officials. Until those who are elected and paid to maintain the peace actually take the necessary and very attainable steps to do so, the boom will go on!