Day #017: A fee for calling the police for a noise complaint

Some services shouldn’t be entirely tax payer funded.

Inspired by Michael Bierut’s 100 Day Project, 100 Days to a Better RVA strives to introduce and investigate unique ideas to improving the city of Richmond. View the entire project here and the intro here.

  • Idea: Charge a fee for calling the police for a noise complaint.
  • Difficulty: 2 — Charging for anything that used to be free causes headaches, but this is a nice middle ground between two opposing factions.

On Day #009 I suggested ending the noise ordinance or adopting a system based on the Coase theorem that allows the right to silence to be bought and sold. Today I’ll follow up on that idea and suggest an alternative: charging a fee for calling the police for a noise complaint.

Now in its second incarnation,1 the noise ordinance is likely here to stay for a while. There are plenty of behaviors that constitute a noise violation, but the gist is, if your neighbors can hear you they can call the cops who then have the power to cite you for a Class 4 misdemeanor (maximum $250 fine). A second offense within a year constitutes a Class 3 misdemeanor, and a third offense constitutes a Class 2 misdemeanor (up to six months in jail and/or a $1,250 fine).

199 murders in the past five years, too frequent violent robberies around town and the Richmond City Police Department still offers free house calls to deal with simple noise. Every time an officer reports to a call for a noise violation, they are taken off of the streets where they can deal with more important issues.

Instead of using their own resources, or communication and neighborliness, the noise ordinance allows people to use the city’s resources to attempt to solve the problem of noise. Instead, a noise complaint should cost a fee–say $25. After the first call return visits would be free for the rest of the week if officers decide there was an infraction on the first visit.

The fee would be an easy way to offset the cost of dispatching officers to less important calls and would act as a slight disincentive to making the call but would still leave it as an option for extreme cases.

Part of belonging to a society is paying for stuff you don’t want. I don’t own a car, but I understand the need for automobile infrastructure. I am employed, but I understand the need for food stamps. All city services shouldn’t be unlimited and free to residents–a nice precedent for this type of fee is the gas installation fee.

Sound is a strong sign of a vibrant city. The closest thing we have to a “shining city on a hill” is New York City–the city that never sleeps. Richmond will never have the same nightlife as NYC or an economy so strong that it spills into the night like it does in the Big Apple, but limiting ourselves to 7:00 AM to 12:00 AM and then using city resources for free to stymy activity outside of that window is unproductive.

Love this idea? Think it’s terrible? Have one that’s ten times better? Head over to the 100 Days to a Better RVA Facebook page and join in the conversation.

Photo by: Sean Davis

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Aaron Williams

Aaron Williams loves music, basketball (follow @rvaramnews!), family, learning, and barbecue sauce.

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