City officials discuss noise ordinance

Residents encouraged to report perceived violations

By: Alex Tekip | Advertiser Times | Published April 6, 2016

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HARPER WOODS — The Harper Woods Ordinance Committee held a meeting on April 4, after press time, to discuss the city’s current noise ordinance and what can be done to make it easier to enforce. 

The noise ordinance states that loud, unnecessary and unnatural noises that “endanger or impair the health, comfort, safety, peace and quiet, welfare, and enjoyment” of residents in the neighborhood where the noise is coming from are subject to a violation. Unruly or loud noises occurring between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. could also be considered a violation. The full text of the noise ordinance can be found on the Harper Woods city website, www.harperwoodscity.org. 

Prior to the April 4 Ordinance Committee meeting, the noise ordinance was discussed at a March 21 City Council meeting. 

During the City Council meeting, City Manager Randolph Skotarczyk stressed the importance of residents calling the Police Department to voice their concerns regarding noise. 

“We need a complainant to come forward, because the police officer cannot be a complainant,” he said. “So we need an actual complainant. That’s the problem we run into where no one wishes to be that complainant, and it makes it very difficult. ... Even if (the police officer) agrees that it might be too loud, his peace cannot be disturbed.”

“There has to be a resident or a citizen that actually comes forward that says, ‘I want to sign a complaint that my peace was disturbed because of this, this and this,’” said Deputy Chief John Vorgitch. “The Police Department cannot be the complainant.”

According to Vorgitch, noise in residential areas typically increases as weather gets warmer, with summer being the peak time. Vorgitch and Skotarczyk both said noise complaints are often subjective. Vorgitch said he’s heard noise complaints ranging from a child dribbling a basketball to loud music. He said there are different variables that are considered when dealing with a noise complaint. 

“It depends on what time of day it is,” said Vorgitch. “If these are in the afternoon, early evening hours, noise is noise, depending on what the extreme is. There are after-hour noise complaints that the police officers can issue violations for.”

Mayor Pro Tem Cheryl Costantino said the best course of action for residents addressing a noise problem is to speak with neighbors, if possible.

“For me, what I usually do, you know, if it’s a time like where it’s OK for me to go out and talk to the neighbors, I ask them, but you have to be on good terms with the neighbors to get them to do anything,” she said. “If you don’t feel comfortable or safe doing that, then they should just call the police when it’s really loud.”

Vorgitch said the police can act as mediators if there is an issue between neighbors. 

“(If) for some reason these neighbors can’t get along, then we have no problem showing up and being a mediator and trying to talk to somebody and say, ‘Hey, you know, you’re disturbing your neighbor’s peace,’ or, ‘Your radio is too loud; maybe you should turn it down,’” he said.

Costantino said one way residents can approach reducing noise is creating a neighborhood watch so that the police aren’t called every time there’s a potential noise violation. She said the Police Department is likely to respond to reasonable noise concerns if there isn’t something of a higher priority, such as a crime investigation or car crash occurring at the same time. 

“The  benefit of being in a city like Harper Woods, as opposed to being in Detroit or Southfield or something like that, or Flint or anything — you know, a big community — part of the beauty of it is that you can call the police for noise ordinance violations,” she said. 

“We encourage people to call, and if there are police officers available, they will come,” she said. 

Residents can file a noise complaint with Harper Woods police by calling the department’s nonemergency line at (313) 343-2530. All complainants will remain anonymous.