Violent responses to noise complaints

Photo credit: Tony Webster licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skie

As the GrowNYC board member who oversees our noise activities, I receive many calls from New Yorkers who are disturbed by neighbor noise. I listen to the complaint from an individual who is filled with distress and even before I have suggested any action regarding the complaint, the individual calms down and thanks me for listening– the first person who has. While several of the callers do express anger and some suggest wanting to hit the ceiling with a broom to bring noise to the neighbor above, this tends to be the extent of any aggressive behavior on the part of the person exposed to noise. Similarly, for the most part the noisemakers have not threatened the people complaining to me. I then proceed to work on these noise complaints with managing agents, landlords, and city representatives. I have helped resolve many, though not all, complaints over the years.

In an earlier post, I wrote about a father of two young children who after complaining about his neighbor’s loud music was stabbed to death as he walked away from the noisemaker. In a more recent article centered on a leaf blower noise dispute, we learn that the neighbor using the leaf blower was shot. Apparently, the violent action can go either way. More importantly, we should ask whether noise complaints will continue to result in violent behavior.

This past weekend neighbors in Cleveland, Texas asked a man to stop firing his noisy rifle outside his home. The man, who was shooting his rifle in his yard, believed he had the right to do what he wanted in his own yard. But after asserting that he had this right, he went further. He used his rifle to kill five of the people in the home next door. This noise situation is somewhat different in that the complaint centered on a neighbor creating noise by firing a gun. If more noise complaints result in an increase in violent behavior, and with more people owning guns, may we expect more cases of people being shot over noise complaints?

The violence accompanying noise complaints is extremely disturbing, and I wonder what can be done to curb this violent behavior. I would appreciate the thoughts of Quiet Coalition readers.

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