Noise Barrier

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Posted June 18, 2009 in News

Summer’s here. School’s out. No more classes—time to party!

 

But if your all-night kegger is set to make party history in Riverside, you might want to re-think your plans for a rager lest you face a big hit to your bank account. Riverside Police have kicked off active enforcement of the city’s noise regulations during these summer months—but the salt in the wound is that now it’s much easier for officers to bust your little brew-haha and bill you for all the man-hours, equipment and department resources they use to squelch your bash.

 

But there is an upside: First-time offenders will likely get off with a warning.

 

Making sure your 2AM game of beer pong doesn’t keep the neighbors up is being done in the name of “livability,” police say—and part of an effort to make sure cops are focused on busting real crooks rather than sorting out the local frat’s drink-a-thon. With classes over and summer here, students, grads and Greeks are living la vida loca.

 

“It’s not unusual at this time to have large high school parties, college parties, graduation parties,” says Riverside Police Lt. Steve Johnson, a watch commander. “We don’t mind people celebrating, but we also want to protect the comfort of the surrounding citizens.”

 

In a typical scenario, a responding officer arriving at the scene of a loud party will make contact with the party host, take down their info, issue a warning and hand them a “party pamphlet” spelling out public nuisance rules and regs. If cops respond again to the same house within 15 days, police can bill them for the police cars, hours, helicopter, K-9 unit—whatever is used to deal with the party, Johnson says. And while Johnson declined to talk exact dollars, police resources aren’t cheap and generally tally in the hundreds of dollars.

 

Under the old system, Riverside police needed a civilian witness or neighbor to be willing to sign off on an arrest warrant in order for a loud or large party to be considered a public nuisance. While local residents aren’t shy about complaining about a noisy bash, getting one to sign a legal document was often easier said than done.

 

“Some people don’t want to get involved,” Johnson says. “They don’t want to go to court or they’re afraid of retaliation. They live next door and they don’t want to create problems with neighbors. It limited our ability to deal with the issue.”

 

But because of changes to the city’s municipal code (which ominously states that “the City Council finds and determines that loud or large parties on private property can constitute a threat to the peace, health, safety, or general welfare of the public.”), officers no longer need to tap a resident for this and can go ahead and determine the party is a problem all on their own. The changes also green-light cops’ authority to potentially charge the party throwers thousands of dollars for their time and trouble—a departure from the prior fixed citation amount of $200.

 

This tough-on-partying tactic mirrors a direction Riverside’s been taking since last year, when a new ordinance was approved that allows the city to charge clubs, restaurants or other businesses the cost of dealing with constant public nuisances, loitering, calling 911 for non-emergency reasons or false fire alarms. In this case, if problems continued, businesses would be liable for charges ranging from nearly $300 an hour to nearly $500 an hour.

 

Those throwing that party-of-the-year blowout could face far stiffer penalties—just the cost of sending a helicopter out is over $1,000, according to city Finance Director Paul Sundeen.

 

“It could literally be an astronomical amount,” he says.

 


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