Acting Leominster Police Chief Aaron Kennedy was out with his wife downtown recently when a car came around the corner blasting music.
“The woofer was significant,” Kennedy said. “I couldn’t even tell you what kind of music it was. With the bass, it was hard to tell.”
As the weather warms up and windows go down, Kennedy says complaints about loud music start to come in. On Tuesday, the department posted to its Facebook page that it would begin issuing warnings “starting immediately” to those violating a city ordinance that bans “unnecessary noise” from car stereos that can be heard outside of the driver and passengers.
It’s part of a civil ordinance that’s been on the books for years but Kennedy says the department issues reminders every spring. Violations carry a $100 fine, but Kennedy says only repeat offenders could get a ticket. Most people will just get warnings and they don’t issue many of those.
“It’s more of an educational thing,” he said.
Reaction to the social media post was strong and varied. While some applauded the ordinance others questions whether it could contribute to racial profiling.
“This has nothing to do with racial profiling whatsoever,” the acting chief said, acknowledging nationwide concerns expressed in news stories over police interactions.
Heidi Marrama commented on the department’s page wishing the ordinance wasn’t just in Leominster: “Fitchburg take notice! It’s bad when the windows are closed and my dishes and walls are vibrating with someone’s radio.”
Others were more critical.
“Yes, let’s give the Karen’s of the world more tools to mess with other people’s lives. As if there aren’t more important issues. Y’all just want the money,” Noah Latham posted.
Kennedy said he was surprised by some of the reactions.
“We want people to be aware of it and comply,” he said. “We don’t want to give out tickets.”
The city ordinance identifies the unnecessary noise as noise that “is plainly audible in a public place at a distance of fifty feet or more in any direction from the vehicle.”
Such noise ordinances aren’t unique to Leominster. The town of Dennis addresses car stereo noise in an ordinance that specifies it must be “plainly audible at a distance of 150 feet from the vehicle or premises from which it originates” and imposes a $50 fine for each offense.
In Salem, the cut-off is 50 feet from whatever is emitting the music and includes boats in public waters as well as motor vehicles.
Warnings seem to be more prevalent than actual fines. The February 2020 Salem Police log shows police stopped two vehicles just after midnight for allegedly “violating the city noise ordinance prohibiting excessively loud music on vehicle radios or players.” Both received a warning.