City could be first in RI to use automated noise app

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The City of Newport is currently soliciting bids to install noise detection cameras in strategic locations in an effort to increase enforcement against noisy car mufflers and stereos.

The pilot program would be the first in Rhode Island to use automated technology to help enforce local noise ordinances.

The proposed system would work similarly to automated traffic and speed cameras, in which an offending motorist’s license plate is photographed and the vehicle owner issues a fine. As part of the city’s request for proposals issued to manufacturers and technology providers earlier this month, automated camera systems would be able to detect noise emanating from vehicles that exceeds the decibel level as stated in the ordinances. on the sound of Newport and take a picture of the license plate allegedly in violation.

“If enforcement is triggered by exceeding the legal noise level, I certainly think it should be implemented,” said Newport Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano. “I’ve seen people sometimes jump about two feet in the air because all of a sudden they hear this loud muffler noise from a motorcycle, and they think there’s a possibility that they could be hurt. I would totally agree.

The city is proposing a six-month pilot program, which could be extended for another six months if necessary, to test detection systems in two areas of Newport that frequently generate noise complaints from passing motor vehicles. Then, data on violations would be collected, analyzed, and the city would decide whether or not to expand the program with permanent installations.

“It looks promising, but I would need to know more,” City Council Vice President Lynn Ceglie said. “We have to tackle the problem of the bike. One of the problems is that motorcyclists tend to ride in groups, so it is difficult for the police to arrest four or five people. The sound is fleeting. It’s a complicated question.

Although the locations of the potential pilot program are not yet finalized, Napolitano said the two areas where motor vehicle noise complaints come the most are America’s Cup Avenue and the Newport Pell Bridge, on Malbone Road or Van Zandt Ave.

“As soon as some riders see a clear road, boom, they speed up,” she said. “It’s a bit scary… These are small neighborhoods and when the motorbikes come down Malbone or Van Zandt in the summer we get complaints all the time.

Once a bidder is selected, the contract would need to get city council approval before the pilot program is adopted.

Newport, with its narrow streets and densely populated neighborhoods, has always struggled with loud, modified mufflers and motor vehicle stereo systems disrupting the quality of life for residents and visitors. In May, the city said it was stepping up enforcement of its noise ordinances through the police department for the summer months. Those who violate local noise ordinances are subject to a fine of up to $1,000.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, noise pollution harms quality of life and health, with millions of people across the country suffering illnesses from excessive or unwanted noise. According to the EPA, noise-related issues include stress, high blood pressure, speech interference, hearing loss, and sleep disturbances.

Newport noise ordinances state that local laws are a balance between maintaining quality of life and preserving the First Amendment. The allowable decibel threshold, the units of measurement used to quantify sound, varies by location, time of day and vehicle. For example, a tractor-trailer driving through an industrial area during the day will have a different decibel threshold than a motorcycle driving through a residential area at night. But Newport’s proximity and size can mask what constitutes a violation.

“The town of Newport is a destination for millions of visitors each year, including those who rent seasonal homes,” reads the noise ordinance. “A large majority of homes in Newport are located in densely populated neighborhoods close to commercial districts. City officials are inundated with complaints from residents about overcrowding, disorderly behavior, and unreasonably loud and disturbing noise in these neighborhoods.

City noise ordinances are enforced by the police department, zoning division, or “any other city department or division designated by the director of public safety,” in accordance with the ordinances. Additionally, the city may “conduct sound-related research, monitoring, and other studies” under local law.

The city council may also grant waivers or other sources of noise, such as emergency alerts, military operations, and unamplified human voice.

To complicate the application of this long-standing problem, manually measuring sound decibels can be a tedious process, requiring an instrument resembling a handheld radar gun. In addition, a violation is often difficult to prove or confirm in court.

“We can’t have police everywhere to enforce that,” Napolitano said. “I wish we could, but we can’t. The police have to roll down their window and calibrate the handheld device. It’s very difficult. I think some sort of automated system would be a good idea to at least try.

Councilor Kate Leonard, on the other hand, said she didn’t believe the idea would work and residents would protest the use of automated detection technology.

“At the end of the day, Newport has had noise and nuisance issues for a long, long time,” she said. “How many were ticketed and how many were held in court? »

The city is soliciting bids for the pilot program through Nov. 21 and intends to award the contract within one month of the solicitation period ending.

When asked about the proposal for Newport this week, the city had no comment, citing preparations for the Nov. 8 general election.

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