Seven Tampa residents lined up in Tampa City Council Chambers Thursday to speak in support of a proposed noise ordinance. The ordinance passed its first reading and would enforce “steep” punishments for drivers who blast car stereos.
Drivers whose music is audible from 50 feet away would face an initial fine of $250. The first draft of the ordinance only allowed officers to enforce the noise ordinance during the night and early morning. After hearing from members of the public, like Betty Bell, council members agreed that the ordinance should be in affect all day and amended the ordinance.
“I have spoken to several seniors who could not be here today, but have asked me, ‘Please say something because at night, when I’m trying to sleep, my head is bouncing off the pillow’. So I say today, we need not just ten to ten, we need 24/7 police protection for all of this loud music within our community.”
Another Tampa resident, Clay Daniels, expressed similar concerns. He told the Tampa City Council that he believed police would have a hard time enforcing the ordinance if the ordinance had time restrictions.
“We don’t need a time frame. We need to let police officers do their job so we can contain this noise. Because the police department in district 3, those people are having problems down there. They can’t do their work and it’s affecting them also. So I’m asking you all to take out the time frame on this.”
Many of the residents who spoke at the meeting, including Bell and Daniels, live in East Tampa. Tampa Police Major Diane Hobley-Burney patrols District 3 in East Tampa. She stressed that the problem is not just in East Tampa.
“It’s city wide. We did research on that as well and it’s all over. From New Tampa all the way down to my end of the city limits. It’s spread wide and often.”
Under the proposed ordinance, a second offense would result in a $450 fine. Get caught a third time and drivers could find themselves in jail. Council member Lisa Montelione said she wouldn’t support the noise ordinance as long as it carried the possibility of jail time.
“It’s a safety issue for people in the car not hearing emergency vehicles approaching. It’s a disturbance to every neighborhood, not matter which part of the city you live in. I understand that. I get that. I really feel very, very strongly about not having this ordinance carry jail time. Jail time is going to put a lot of young people behind bars who are going to get records, who are not going to be able to get jobs.”
Harry Cohen, council member from District 4, disagreed with Montelione, saying that the harsh punishments are needed for the law to be effective.
“There is absolutely no excuse for repeatedly blaring your car stereo so loud that people in neighborhoods cannot sleep. It’s not something you should have one, two, three, four times warnings before we do anything with teeth in it so I support the ordinance the way it is.”
A city attorney warned council there might be legal challenges to the noise ordinance – like a similar state law that was found unconstitutional – but she thinks Tampa’s is enforceable.
Tampa City Council could approve the noise ordinance on second reading on June 6.