Thanks Quieter O'ahu for making this forum available. As you'd suggested, I've written to the Mayor, my city councilman and my State Representative, (in addition to sending him a donation) to my concerns about noise specific to vehicle exhausts and boom sound systems.
All three responded positively and each one referred my concerns to the HPD Chief. This is where the "wheels come off". I got a separate response each time that HPD monitored the area near the top of St. Louis Heights for a period of time and there was not a single incident of excessive noise from a car, motorcycle or moped! (3 times over a 48 hour period).
That's amazing! I could pick random times between 10am to 8pm and I would be able to cite 1/2 dozen vehicles running illegal exhausts or excessively loud stereos.
I believe resolution to this problem is 3 fold.
1. These narcissists who insist on inflicting normal folks with their noise need to be put on notice by the police there is zero tolerance for loud exhaust especially in residential neighborhoods.
2. They need to be put on notice by AGGRESSIVE ENFORCEMENT - zero tolerance. Citations, fines, impounds.
3. It's not going to be taken seriously until our elected officials begin to feel larger public pressure and apply their clout onto HPD to show results... e.g. visible checkpoints (do it in conjunction with DUI and registration, vehicle isnpection checks)
WE ON THIS BLOG need to. become a unified political action arm and start applying organized, vocal, public pressure on the the City officials (Mayor, councilmen) to hold HPD accountable for putting the offenders on notice in a very draconian manner.
Quieter O'ahu Response:
Mahalo for your email and thoughtful comments.
We're not surprised that HPD issued zero citations. That's consistent with their history. You can see their data, although dated and limited, on our website for the number of noise citations issued by HPD for the period surveyed. Extrapolating the data, an HPD Officer could be expected to issue only 8.5 noise citations over a 20 year career. I would venture that more current data would show an even smaller number of citations.
We have long advocated that the cure to this problem rests with enforcement. If you review our pages on current Honolulu and Hawai'i Ordinances and Statutes there is ample authority to issue citations and bring noise to a screeching halt. But HPD, and our legislators, lack the will. I won't go as far as to say their will has been corrupted, but the "Industry" for aftermarket stereos, amplifiers, speakers, exhaust systems, mufflers, etc., is large and powerful. And they lobby, and they contribute to political campaigns.
And our legislative process, as convoluted as it is, gives cover to legislators who session after session do nothing about holding HPD to account. Here's an example. Although we do have "coverage" of most of the noise under current ordinances and statutes, most of the wording is vague and awkward. It uses language such as "louder than normal" - well, what is "normal" the courts would ask; "in excess of xxdBa - well, who measures that, from where, using what equipment, and using what dBa filter; "would sound too loud to a person of normal sensitivity" - what does that even mean, and how would it be measured and enforced? Too, we allow entirely too much "Officer Discretion." Call HPD, they hear a noise, they give a warning or just walk away. When HPD is asked why no citation was issued, they say the officer used his/her "discretion" in deciding that a citation wasn't warranted.
We have suggested many times to many legislators (Legislature and City Council) to amend the language of current ordinances and statutes to a common "Plainly Audible Standard" (PAS). This is what many, many communities have done. PAS simplifies wording in legislation to say simply, "If the noise can be heard from its point of origin (e.g., exhaust, speaker, noise/sound producing equipment) at/to a distance of xx feet, as determined by the responding officer, that is sufficient to prove the offense. An approximation of distance by the responding officer is an adequate determination of distance. In the case of music, it is not necessary that the officer be able to discern the lyrics for the sound to be deemed audible." Play with the wording to make it applicable, but you get the point. No "dB's," no "too loud," no "personal sensitivity," just noise is or is not heard over a given distance. Just common sense. But they won't do that. We've come to believe that they want the laws vague and, therefore, unenforceable. Why? Well, there's that industry lobby and campaign donations thing. What other explanation is there for language that, frankly, could have been better crafted for enforcement by a third-grader?
And yes, the Chief of Police could direct that noise enforcement be done more aggressively, much more aggressively - or done at all, and it is inexplicable why that civic leader does not do so. And yet, lack of enforcement across the board on noise infractions is proof that there is no will. And the Chief of Police is relatively immune from political pressure. He/She acts with great autonomy and answerable only to the Police Commission. Not to legislators, not to the Mayor, but to the Police Commission. Political cronies appointed by the Mayor and approved by City Council.
So what can be done? First, we have recommended to Neighborhood Boards (NB/NBs) that they take up the challenge of ending/mitigating noise. To start, there is an HPD representative at each meeting of each NB. We recommend that the NB have the HPD representative report to the board each month the number of noise citations for the previous month in that community, and a cumulative total of citations issued thus far in that community for the calendar year. That would provide visibility to the community on lack of noise enforcement. Second, we have recommended that the 21 NBs identify a representative from one of the NBs who will collate the monthly reports from all the other NBs, and distribute the cumulative totals of noise citations back to the 21 NBs. This report would become part of the normal NB agenda, and the total be reported to each community each month immediately before the HPD representatives report of noise citations issued. More visibility, more transparency. This monthly report should also be provided to broadcast and print media. One or more of the media would likely pick this up and begin publishing results of non-enforcement. Civil Beat would be a good start. Once the NBs, collectively, become aware of how expansive the noise problem really is, and how little, or nothing, is being done by HPD, they will be armed with the facts and figures to demand action of the Mayor, the HPD, the Police Commission if necessary, and up to and including the Governor. So far, however, the NBs have been unable to act together, and if only 1 or 2 of the 21 act, that simply is insufficient to gain the necessary traction.
So Mahalo, again, for your note. Sorry for so much verbiage, but yes, this is a complex problem with many moving parts and obstacles. We will post your comments, without identifying info, and our response, to our Noise Blog for the benefit of others.