The loudest class ever

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September 1, 2009

12:23 AM

A quick glance at The Flat Hat News section will show that the Williamsburg Police Department has been keeping very busy. In fact, since classes began, it has already issued about as many citations for noise as it did all of last year. To be frank, this is more than enough reason for us to raise a concerned eyebrow.

Until the law was struck down as unconstitutional for vagueness this summer, Williamsburg had an ordinance in place that permitted noise levels up to the point at which a “reasonable person” would be offended. The new law replaces that standard with several discrete decibel limits that should make it objective whether or not a violation actually takes place. Because of the subjective nature of the former standard, it would be plausible for the transition to the new law to be completely seamless, but this upward blip in citations raises the question of whether or not there was also a recent change in enforcement policies.

In the past, the WPD has been very good at dealing with noise without resorting to citations. Last year, of the 400 noise complaints it received, only a few actually made it to court. Generally, if a neighborly phone call could not resolve a noise complaint, a chat with a police officer — or an official warning from him or her — would. Repeat offenders could, of course, expect more stern treatment. Keeping fines and court appearances to a minimum meant less hassle for everyone, and noise was being kept under control.

Issuing knee-jerk criticism of the police without having all the facts on hand is a risky business in which we will have no part. At this time, it still is not clear what happened when these recent citations were issued or the extent to which they were deserved. After all, the first week back tends to be big for parties, and therefore, big for noise. But we do know that in the past Williamsburg’s finest have been good at walking the delicate line between Williamsburg’s sleepy and sleepless. We hope they will continue to do so in the future.

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