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Published: Thursday, 8/12/2004

'Loud-sound' law change turns tunes down

Steve Boldt fits a 15-inch speaker into a trunk, but the vehicle owner will have to keep the volumn down. Steve Boldt fits a 15-inch speaker into a trunk, but the vehicle owner will have to keep the volumn down.
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More than a year after Toledo City Council changed its "loud-sound" law in hopes of quieting the boom-boom-boom of car stereos, enforcement has increased markedly.

In the first seven months of this year, officers have issued more than double the number or tickets they issued in all of 2002, when loud car stereo music was a criminal offense. It's now a traffic offense.

According to Toledo Municipal Court statistics, 248 violations were recorded in 2002 when it was still criminal to blast music. During the nine months in 2003 that the crime was considered a traffic offense, 1,027 violations were cited. This year, 579 citations have already been recorded.

"There's more enforcement because the law is easier to enforce," Toledo Police Sgt. Paul Kirschbaum said. "It doesn't take as much of an officer's time."

When the offense was criminal, an officer could spend up to an hour completing the required crime report and citation. Now that it's a traffic violation, it only takes up to 15 minutes to write a ticket.

The change, which took effect in April, 2003, means motorists are keeping an ear to their car stereo volume. That makes residents like Jo Ann Gozdowski of North Toledo much happier.

"The traffic noise you expect but the music you shouldn't have to deal with," said the Block Watch leader at Vistula Manor on Cherry Street.

Although the law is reclassified, the penalties remain the same. Violators are charged with a minor misdemeanor and can be ordered to pay up to $100 in fines and up to $75 in court costs if their tunes can be heard 50 feet away from their vehicle. Officers can seize the stereo equipment, or the vehicle, if the stereo is not easily removable.

"Making it a traffic offense has worked," Toledo Police Lt. Randy Pepitone said. "They turn it off when they see us."

Toledo is not the only area restructuring its laws in an attempt to quiet blaring sound systems.

Last month the Detroit City Council passed an amendment to its noise ordinance that sets specific penalties for motorists whose music can be heard 10 feet away from their vehicle.

Under the law, anyone who disturbs the peace can be fined $500 and given up to 90 days in jail.

Detroit City Council member Barbara-Rose Collins, said she drafted the amendment because the city's police officers and judges were reluctant to issue violations to motorists with booming sound systems.

"It is nerve-wracking to be at a traffic light and have the music booming and your heart pounding along with it," Ms. Collins said.

The booming music disturbs citizens and sometimes prevents motorists from hearing emergency vehicle sirens, she said.

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