Police: Keep car concerts down or risk fines


Published: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at 2:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at 2:29 p.m.

Gainesville drivers with bass-boosted stereo systems will now have to turn down their volume.

Facts

VIOLATION FINES

* First offense: Warning, no fine

* Second offense: Within 365 days of the warning, civil citation with a $250 fine (plus $21 court costs)

* Third offense: Within 365 days of the first citation, a citation with a $500 fine (plus $21 court costs)

* Fourth offense: Within 365 days of the second citation, a citation with a mandatory court appearance, and a fine to be determined up to $500 (plus $21 court costs)

* Report a violation: Call the GPD Communications Center at 352-955-1818.

Gainesville Police officers will enforce the city's noise ordinance by issuing a warning notice or a civil citation to the violator. A warning is issued for the first incident and remains in effect for 365 days. If another violation occurs within 365 days, a civil citation is issued and a new 365-day period begins.

The city is expanding enforcement of its noise ordinance to include vehicles after Gainesville police say they have received numerous complaints in recent months, especially in the downtown area.

The ordinance states if a vehicle's sound system can be heard past 200 feet — about the length of two city blocks — or if it disturbs someone of reasonable sensitivities, the driver can be issued a citation. The first offense renders a warning, but subsequent offenses carry fines and a possible court appearance.

Gainesville Police Department spokesman Officer Ben Tobias said the enforcement is a response to residents' complaints about vehicles with loud systems being driven through residential areas.

"We constantly get complaints from some of our residents in neighborhoods and some of our crime-watch groups that they're being kept up all hours of the night by loud car stereos," Tobias said.

He said the department's legal team reviewed the ordinance to make sure it avoided the same pitfalls that a 2005 state stereo law fell into, which made playing music audibly past 25 feet a fineable offense.

That law was declared unconstitutional in December 2012 because it made an exception for political or commercial messages broadcast from a vehicle.

Tobias said there are no such exceptions in the city ordinance.

Gainesville drivers such as Jonny Blaster think the ordinance is a matter of common sense.

Blaster, who is the manager at the stereo-installation shop Audio Outlet at 1535 NW 6th St., said drivers who have powerful systems should use them responsibly.

"It's a matter of respect," he said. "If people use their system intelligently, they won't have a problem."

He said he has high-powered systems in both of his cars, but during his commute to Gainesville he plays them with his windows up and the volume down.

Audio Outlet has installed about 150,000 audio systems over the past 30 years, said Blaster, adding that at least one customer every day asks about large packages of subwoofers and speakers.

Even though he installs the big systems, Blaster himself is not a fan of those who play their tunes too loudly.

"I kind of cringe thinking I was one of the techs that might have installed that system," he said.

But not all audiophiles agree with Blaster.

Nick Watts said the penalties in place are too severe.

Watts, 33, said with loud background noises from airplanes, motorcycles and other sources, it's unreasonable to think that car stereos are the biggest nuisance.

He also noted that the systems' bass frequency is often so low that it can't make a person physically uncomfortable.

Watts competes in audio competitions around the country. He said the audio scene isn't well represented in Gainesville, which makes the ordinance even more out of place.

He said his car's system can be heard easily a quarter-mile away, much less 200 feet.

"If I went over there and turned my system up, they wouldn't know what was going on," he said. "They'd think it was an earthquake."

Sean Stewart-Muniz is a Gainesville Sun correspondent.

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