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Tampa residents turn up volume on complaints about loud car stereos

TAMPA — That boom-boom-pow blasting from your car stereo might sound great to you, but nearby drivers say it rattles their brains.

They want the ability to turn you in to the police.

"It would be more effective if the citizens who live in the area work with the Police Department," Clay Daniels, who lives in East Tampa, told the City Council on Thursday. "We can no longer just let it go on. People are suffering."

More than 400 people signed a petition supporting a program that would let residents give police the license plate numbers of cars playing music that can be heard 25 feet away, which violates state law. Police would then notify owners they might be breaking noise rules. St. Petersburg has a similar program.

David Head, owner of a battery sales business in East Tampa, urged the council to follow St. Petersburg's lead. Sometimes, he said, it gets so noisy he can't carry on a telephone conversation.

"We combat the loud music problem on a daily basis," he said.

But the council instead voted to ask police Chief Steve Hogue to start cracking down.

That came after hearing from Tampa police Maj. Mark Hamlin, who said he worries about adding new duties to the Police Department amid budget cuts.

St. Petersburg's complaint program, launched by its neighborhood services program in February 2008 and adopted by police in March 2009, hasn't been effective, Hamlin said. The complaints sometimes contain inaccurate information, and a letter from police isn't likely to deter.

"We find a lot of times the stereo systems are actually worth more than the cars themselves," Hamlin said.

A $101 fine, which can be issued if an officer hears the music, has a much greater impact, Hamlin said. People irritated by the loud music should call police so an officer can go to the scene and possibly write a ticket, he added.

St. Petersburg police spokesman Bill Proffitt said Thursday the program works. From February 2008 through April 2009, there were 600 complaints about car stereos but only 121 in 2009.

"I know one individual received a couple letters from us, and she called the other day and said, 'Okay, I get it.' Maybe it took a couple letters to realize it was a violation of state law," he said. "The program does have a positive effect. But actually how much, we're not going to know."

Michael Rivera, an insurance agent from Town 'N Country, said he was disappointed the Tampa City Council didn't take stronger action. Frequent noise makes it difficult for him to do business on the phone.

"Things just don't get done," he said. "It's always disappointing."

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

Tampa residents turn up volume on complaints about loud car stereos 06/04/09 [Last modified: Thursday, June 4, 2009 10:03pm]
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