Monday, June 25, 2007

Keeping a lid on it

Sometimes I am amazed.

Last week, I spent a significant chunk of time responding to worries that citizens expressed including signs placed in the public right-of-way between the sidewalk and the curb, and loud automotive stereos. What amazes me isn't that these things get under someone's skin, rather it's the expectation that the police should make these annoyances go away. I'm a little peeved by those and "lose 30 pounds in 30 days!" signs myself, but when you struggle to put enough officers on the street to handle the big stuff, it's just a little disconcerting to realize you are letting people down by not picking off those who illegally post garage sale signs with sufficient enthusiasm.

So, here's my response to a nice couple who are being "physically assaulted" by the sounds of stereos at night--so severely that they are thinking about leaving Lincoln--and the police won't do anything about it:

"I want you to know that we do indeed enforce the Lincoln Municipal Ordinance which prohibits car stereos from being audible from a distance of more than 50 feet. This year, we will issue close to 400 citations for this offense. At times, we are bitterly criticized for our enforcement of this law.

Unfortunately, I don't think all the tickets in the world can offset the cultural phenomenon, but we will keep trying. This certainly isn't a problem limited to Lincoln--it is nationwide. It seems to me that every young adult aspires to put a more powerful amplifier and larger speakers in their car--not to mention a number of local businesses who depend on this for their livelihood. Until the culture changes, the police will inevitably be largely ineffective in completely stemming the tide of noise.

If you can depend on the vast majority of people to voluntarily obey the law, the police can generally do a good job of ensuring that the outliers are reeled in. However, if a large number of otherwise law-abiding citizens disregard the law, we have a significant problem. I think these loud stereos (often purchased, directly or indirectly, by parents) are almost in the same category as illegal fireworks—behaviors that are tacitly condoned by far too many adults who ought to know better.

Since your message specifically mentioned car stereos on Friday and Saturday nights, I hope you will keep in mind that this is only one of dozens of problems we must deal with during this time, which is our peak demand period. The dispatch center is frequently holding incidents during this time period, because there are not enough officers to cover all the police calls. Lincoln has one of the smallest police departments per capita in the region and the smallest in the State. There are lots of competing priorities out there, and I am afraid that there is no way that we can meet everyone's expectations at all times, despite our efforts.

At some point, we all have to realize that the police cannot be everywhere for everyone at every time--or we have to be willing to dig much, much deeper into our taxpayer pockets. In the meantime, we'll try to keep up at least a little pressure on the late-night rock and rumble crowd!"

I'm not looking forward to the Fourth of July.


Anonymous said...

Frankly, I'm tempted to install a big car stereo system myself, with really loud speakers. That way, when a moron playing loud thumping inane "music" pulls up next to me in traffic, I can turn my system on and blast them with some loud polka music! :)

Anonymous said...

oh, the joy of listening to others' selection of tunes. not only on the street, but on the telephone as well. luckily, i am not often subjected to very loud car stereo systems, and i wouldn't dream of contacting the police dept. to complain about goofy signs i see around town.

i am amazed at the pork i see whenever i visit the lps administration bldg on "o" street. while i am pro education, i do think we ought to reduce lps pork and give the money to the lpd.

Tom Casady said...

I think that was the point, 6:05, we've got a few more problems than some people seem to realize, and a few problems that may be annoyances to some, but aren't really something the police can control very well. Speaking of getting a life, ...