PATERSON, NJ – In response to complaints from city council members, Paterson’s police department says it has begun taking a “zero tolerance” approach towards noise violations.
City police brass last week issued an order to all officers, telling them “no warnings, no second chances,’’ on noise violations, said Deputy Police Chief Danny Nichols.
If officers responding to a noise complaint hear excessive music or other sounds, they’ve been directed to issue the people responsible a $100 summons, Nichols said. A second offense carries a maximum penalty of $1,000.
Council members had talked about the possibility of directing police to confiscate sound systems producing excessive noise. But Paterson’s law staff has advised officials that they lack legal authority to confiscate the equipment. So, instead they’ve convinced the police department to crack down on noise violators.
Councilman Kenneth Morris said that over the course of several months this year, Paterson police received about 4,000 calls from residents complaining about noise. But over that same time period, just 25 summonses had been issued, Morris said.
Nichols said the statistics showing 25 summonses may be somewhat misleading, partly because of record-keeping flaws. “We believe there were many more summonses issued than what was recorded,’’ Nichols said. The police department is revising its record keeping procedure to reflect a more accurate picture of the tickets written up, Nichols said.
Noise violations and other quality of life issue present a quandary for Paterson authorities. The city has Passaic County’s highest crime numbers and recently endured the reduction of 25 percent of its police force through 125 layoffs. In the aftermath of the layoffs, police officials said they were spread too thin to send officers out to respond to calls on things like car break-ins.
But council members have insisted that the department make the city’s noise problem a priority.
“We’ve got to continue to apply pressure to make sure the laws are enforced,’’ said Councilman Andre Sayegh.
Authorities said they would continue to prioritize calls, acknowledging that reports of criminal activity would take precedence over noise complaints. It may take an hour or two before police officers are available to send to a noise complaint, officials said. But once they get to the scene, they will not be cutting noises some slack anymore, officials said.
“If it takes a while to get there, and there’s still noise, there’s no reason to give anyone a warning,’’ Nichols said.