YOUNGSTOWN Woman sounds off on noise
A city police captain said the department makes efforts to curtail the noise problem.
By JoANNE VIVIANO
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Carla Moore has lived in her upper South Side home for 20 years. But as soon as she earns her bachelor's degree, she's moving out.
She said the noise has driven her to leave.
"This is something you can't ignore," Moore said. "You can't go in your home and close your door and shut it out."
Moore said loud music, from cars and houses, disrupts her sleep and her studies, interrupts meals, forces her to increase the volume on her television set, and shakes the furniture in her home.
"You have no privacy, no peace; you can't be alone with your thoughts," she said. "It's a disruption. It's an invasion."
When she calls police, Moore said, neighbors retaliate, and the problem gets worse.
Group: The problem prompted Moore to nominate Youngstown as one of the "Noisy Dozen" with the Noise Free America group in California. Moore is a member of the group.
Ted Rueter, executive director and founder of the group, said Youngstown was chosen to receive the monthly award based on Moore's experience. Youngstown is the fourth city to be named to the Noisy Dozen.
Reaction: City Police Capt. Mike Vodilko calls the Noisy Dozen moniker "baloney."
"The whole thing's ridiculous," Vodilko said. "The city does all kind of stuff to minimize noise and make it a better place to live."
Vodilko said noise complaints are something the department receives constantly, and the city responds, with judges going as far as jailing repeat offenders of noise regulations.
"We all hate it, and we're always arresting people for boom boxes and other things," Vodilko added.
Mayor George McKelvey declined to comment, saying he refuses to dignify the group's award by addressing it.
Tougher law: The loud-music ordinance was recently revamped to add teeth to it, said Marti Kane, a legislative aide in the city law department. Fines are stiffer, she said, and judges have gotten on board for enforcement.
In May 2000, the city began a crackdown on noise violators, and for the first time, a municipal court judge jailed a repeat offender. Early last year, however, Judge Elizabeth A. Kobly ruled that the city's ordinance was vague and unenforceable. It was rewritten in its new format last February.
Kane said the loud-music ordinance is the most-requested ordinance by police officers, many of whom keep a copy in their cruisers.
For a first-time offense, a loud-music violator faces a fine of $50 to $250. A second offense carries a mandatory fine of $500; a third offense, $600 plus seizure of stereo equipment.
In 2001, city police issued about 500 citations for violations of noise ordinances, municipal court records show. About half were for violations from vehicle sound systems; roughly another half were for loud sound-device violations.
Residents' experiences: But Moore said she has had difficulty getting police to cite her neighbors. Many have police scanners and hear when officers are dispatched on a complaint. In other cases, she said, officers have told her they cannot issue a citation unless they hear the loud music themselves.
Annie Hall, an East Side resident who coordinates the city's neighborhood block-watch programs, said she calls police often on noise complaints.
"It's very, very bad," Hall said. "It's sad that people have to live like that."
She said she agrees that the city is noisy, especially in the summer months, when she hears "nasty" music while sitting on her front porch.
"We need to curtail it a lot," Hall said. "If police keep giving tickets and confiscate [stereos], I think that will stop it."
Her action: Moore has stopped waiting for the city to help her.
She said she's written letters to police and city hall officials to no avail. She's even researched noise issues and recommended solutions to police, suggesting "stings" in unmarked cars and the use of decibel meters.
But slow response, she said, has made her lose faith in the system, and in the city she's called home for two decades.
"I hope to graduate in August and kiss Youngstown goodbye," she said. "I do know two people who left Youngstown because of this, and I will be the third."