Hello, I have been having an issue with my neighbors playing their car stereo at excessive volume (including enough bass to often shake my home) for several months now. I have contacted the police about them several times but they always turn down their music when they see police coming up the road so I am told by the officer that unless they hear the noise themselves that they can only tell them to quiet down and are unable to issue any citation. Usually after the police leave the neighbor in question turns their music up to an even greater volume (pretty obviously in retaliation) and recently they have even begun to pop fireworks after the officer has departed which results in me having to make multiple calls to the police, always with more or less the same result. I have also contacted my neighborhood's association though their reaction has been slow and mostly ineffective. If this issue continues I plan on taking the neighbor in question to small claims court for damages, but I know this requires a fair bit of evidence. I would like to know if this organization can offer any advice on what type of evidence I would require and how I can go about collecting said evidence. I am considering purchasing a decibel meter to document the levels of noise but I am unsure of whether this would hold up as evidence in court. Can you recommend a specific meter or anything else that could help me resolve this issue?
Quieter O'ahu Response:
Yours is a problem that, regrettably, is heard about far too often on our island. Generally, in the car stereo culture, these unnecessarily loud car stereos are called "Boom Cars." We dedicate a good amount of website space to covering Boom Cars at http://www.quieteroahu.com/illegally-used-boom-car-stereos.html . You can also find a good description, which we have also used on our site, at the NoiseOff website: http://www.noiseoff.org/boomcars.php .
We have a specific ordinance under the Revised Ordinance of Honolulu (ROH) that was enacted and specifically covers the noise emitted by these Boom Cars. You can read the ROH, Hawai'i Law - ROH Sec. 41-31.1 - Prohibited Noise, at this link: http://www.quieteroahu.com/hawaii-noise-laws.html .
As you have discovered, the issue is enforcement. While we do not have the metrics from HPD (and the last sample was from 2004 - 2008 and there was no data provided by HPD for that ROH as shown on our chart at http://www.quieteroahu.com/hpds-poor-record-of-enforcement.html , our sense is that they have likely never issued a citation under this ordinance. And it is so simple. Hear the noise beyond 30 feet, issue a citation.
First and foremost we should be clear that WE ARE NOT lawyers. Any advice or suggestions we might offer should be viewed only as opinion based upon our reading, experience, and involvement in noise and noise related issues over the years. The said, and unfortunately, we know from anecdotal experience that noise meters in cases such as this would probably not be effective. When presenting that level of technical detail the question of measurement standards, quality of measurement devices, and qualifications of the measurer are all questioned and challenged.
One or two additional caveats. First, NEVER, EVER, NEVER do anything that is confrontational with your neighbor, or commit any action(s) that are themselves in violation of ordinances or statues. People have been known to become violent in response to confrontation and you should absolutely avoid that. Second, and again, any suggestions we make are, by definition, are legally unqualified. Finally, in pursuing a court case such as you envision we would strongly suggest that you engage competent legal representation/counsel before proceeding.
Conversely, a safer, though more protracted, course of action would be to address the problem to the HPD representative that attends your monthly neighborhood board meeting. You can coordinate time on the agenda to tell your story by contacting your board representative. Just tell them you want to speak about excessive noise by Boom Cars in the community. Their contact information can be found at: https://www.honolulu.gov/cms-nco-menu/site-nco-featured/191-site-nco-cat/682-test.html#NB23 . The Ewa Neighborhood Board (#23) meets every 2d Thursday at the Ewa Beach Public Library at 91-950 North Road at 7:00 pm. You can find a copy of their last agenda here: http://www.honolulu.gov/cms-nco-menu/site-nco-sitearticles/29110-ewa-nb-september-minutes.html . You will see that each month HPD District 8 provides a status of monthly events and will take questions from the audience. We believe you will find others in the audience that have experienced the same problem. You can also ask your neighborhood board to request that HPD provide monthly stats on how many noise and noise-related citations have been issued in your neighborhood for that month, every month. You would think with all the illegally modified auto, truck, and motorcycle mufflers, and Boom Cars, that there would be dozens. Everyone will be surprise at the undoubtedly low, low, low numbers - if any. This is one way to let HPD know that the community is interested, frustrated by lack of enforcement, and expect action. Your neighborhood board can yield strong influence on HPD. We recommend this approach.
Again, should you elect to move forward legally, we encourage you to seek qualified legal representation, and do not be confrontational with your neighbor.
Without attribution to any name or address we will post your note to our blog along with our response. We do this in hope that others will relate and provide comment, or similarly enjoin their neighborhood boards to action.
A Quieter O'ahu