Making loud noise in Dover? Be prepared to pay a fine and be evicted

DOVER — The temperature is rising, and so are noise complaints.

The Dover Police Department has no statistics to project how many calls are coming, but are certain the will now increase.

“(We have) no set numbers, but without a doubt we see an increase in calls for loud noise, music, parties as the weather warms,” spokesman Cpl. Mark Hoffman said.

Simply put, audible music and bass outside 50 feet is illegal and can bring fines of $50 to $107 in the City of Dover, authorities said. State fines are heavier, according to officials.

In the city of Dover ordinance regarding noise, certain acts, among others, are declared to be loud, disturbing and unreasonable noises in violation of the section, but said enumeration shall not be deemed to be exclusive: (1) Horns, signaling devices, etc. The sounding of any horn or signaling device on any automobile, motorcycle, street car or other vehicle on any street or public place of the city, except as a danger warning; the creation by means of any such signaling device of any unreasonably loud or harsh sound; the sounding of any such device for an unreasonable period of time; the use of any signaling device, except one operated by hand or electricity; the use of any horn, whistle or other device operated by engine exhaust; and the use of any such signaling device when traffic is for any reason held up. (2) Radios, phonographs, etc. The playing, using or operating of, or permitting to be played, used or operated, any radio receiving set, musical instrument, phonograph, or other machine or device for the producing or reproducing of sound in such a manner as to disturb the peace, quiet and comfort of the neighboring inhabitants or at any time with louder volume than is necessary for convenient hearing for the person or persons who are in the room, vehicle or chamber in which such machine or device is operated and who are voluntary listeners thereto. The operation of any such set, instrument, phonograph, machine or device in such a manner as to be plainly audible at a distance of 50 feet from the building, structure or vehicle in which it is located shall be prima facie evidence of a violation of this subsection. (3) Loudspeakers, amplifiers for advertising. The playing, using or operating of, or permitting to be played, used, or operated, any radio receiving set, musical instrument, phonograph, loudspeaker, sound amplifier, or other machine or device for the producing or reproducing of sound which is cast upon the public streets for the purpose of commercial advertising or attracting the attention of the public to any building or structure unless authorized by a permit.

In the city of Dover ordinance regarding noise, certain acts, among others, are declared to be loud, disturbing and unreasonable noises in violation of the section, but said enumeration shall not be deemed to be exclusive:
(1) Horns, signaling devices, etc. The sounding of any horn or signaling device on any automobile, motorcycle, street car or other vehicle on any street or public place of the city, except as a danger warning; the creation by means of any such signaling device of any unreasonably loud or harsh sound; the sounding of any such device for an unreasonable period of time; the use of any signaling device, except one operated by hand or electricity; the use of any horn, whistle or other device operated by engine exhaust; and the use of any such signaling device when traffic is for any reason held up.
(2) Radios, phonographs, etc. The playing, using or operating of, or permitting to be played, used or operated, any radio receiving set, musical instrument, phonograph, or other machine or device for the producing or reproducing of sound in such a manner as to disturb the peace, quiet and comfort of the neighboring inhabitants or at any time with louder volume than is necessary for convenient hearing for the person or persons who are in the room, vehicle or chamber in which such machine or device is operated and who are voluntary listeners thereto. The operation of any such set, instrument, phonograph, machine or device in such a manner as to be plainly audible at a distance of 50 feet from the building, structure or vehicle in which it is located shall be prima facie evidence of a violation of this subsection.
(3) Loudspeakers, amplifiers for advertising. The playing, using or operating of, or permitting to be played, used, or operated, any radio receiving set, musical instrument, phonograph, loudspeaker, sound amplifier, or other machine or device for the producing or reproducing of sound which is cast upon the public streets for the purpose of commercial advertising or attracting the attention of the public to any building or structure unless authorized by a permit.

 

Officers will play it by ear, literally, to decide just what constitutes a city violation.

“Fifth feet is the restriction, but each officer is able to use their discretion as well,” Cpl. Hoffman said. “Barely being able to hear a stereo outside of 50 feet and being so loud it shakes the ground outside of 50 feet are two different things.”

Neighbors and businesses affected by the noise typically make initial calls to 736-7111 to have Dover police investigate, authorities said.

“Often times their claims are accurate, but may not necessarily fit within the 50-feet limit,” according to Cpl. Hoffman. “Other times, it may be a passing vehicle that is creating the issue. When this happens it is difficult to enforce.”

While investigating moving vehicle complaints is challenging, police may set up enforcement areas where officers wait at the side of a roadway, ready to report violations to a waiting officer, Cpl. Hoffman said. Also, Community Policing and Quality of Life units can proactively enforce city ordinances by patrolling neighborhood areas.

Proactive enforcement is conducted especially in the downtown college, residential and shopping districts in an effort to educate the public and improve the quality of life for the citizens in those areas,” Cpl. Hoffman said.

“We ask that while you enjoy the season, be mindful of others on the road and the neighbors surrounding you.”

If a house party is called into question, the owner or renter of the residence is responsible for the possible charge.
Dover Police issued a press release within the last week addressing potential noise violations and how to avoid them.

Cpl. Hoffman said education of the issues can prevent future problems.

Loud parties and cars with noisy mufflers also can bring police attention, Cpl. Hoffman said.

Pay within two weeks

A Dover violation and fine must be paid up within 14 days, or the fine doubles and an arrest warrant may be issued for the alleged offender. Two or more violations for loud music and/or disorderly conduct can bring mandatory eviction for renters, police said.

While noise issues are frequent throughout the day and week, afternoon and evening violations are most prevalent, police said. According to Cpl. Hoffman noise issues can be found “anywhere and everywhere.”

Police can evaluate the situation and decide the level of enforcement warranted, authorities said.

“Our officers have discretion and will often issue warning, especially to residential violations before taking enforcement action,” Cpl. Hoffman said.

Often, a noise complaint can lead to other crime-related issues such as underage drinking, weapons and/or drugs, among others.

“Yes, it is a frequent issue especially with colleges still being in session and as the school year winds downs,” Cpl. Hoffman said.

There may be debate on the sound level during an investigation, police said.

“It varies, some are more understanding of the law than others, but yes, some will become argumentative,” Cpl. Hoffman said.

The law states

According to a Dover city ordinance regarding noise in general terms, “It shall be unlawful for any person to make or continue, or cause to be made or continued, any excessive, unreasonable or unusually loud noise or any noise which either annoys, disturbs, injures or endangers the comfort, repose, health, peace or safety of others, or creates the risk thereof, within the limits of the city.”

Title 21, Section 4306 (c) of Delaware state law reads, “No person operating or occupying a motor vehicle on any street, highway, alley, or parking lot shall operate or permit the operation of any music amplification system, including, but not limited to, any radio, tape player, compact disc player, or any other electrical device used for the amplification of music in or on the motor vehicle so that the sound is plainly audible at a distance of 50 or more feet from the vehicle.

“For the purpose of this subsection, ‘plainly audible’ means any sound which clearly can be heard by unaided hearing faculties, however, words or phrases need not be discernible and bass reverberation alone shall be sufficient to so constitute.”

 

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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