With much attention lately focused on “late-night noise” from loud music and subsequent complaints, many of them of the anonymous variety, the Miami Springs council made the subject one of its primary focal points at last week’s May 27 council meeting.
And when the evening was concluded following a lengthy meeting that lasted nearly 21⁄2 hours, a unanimous vote was taken by council to make a slight alteration in the current ordinance that previously allowed all phone calls to remain completely anonymous.
Effective immediately, anyone who calls to complain about loud music or noise will be required to at least give their “general location.”
“Technically as far as anonymous complaints are concerned, nothing really changed tonight regarding the ordinance,” Miami Springs City Attorney Jan Seiden said following the meeting. “Other than now if the complaint is anonymous the caller will have to provide at least some semblance of an address for a police officer to go to to see if a violation was committed.”
The issue initially was brought up by councilman and former mayor Billy Bain so as to not have police officers using up valuable duty time driving to the location of where the actual noise is coming from and subsequently driving all around trying to figure out if the distance is in violation.
“There was an objection to the fact that anonymous complaints were being accepted for noise complaints because noise complaints have a component in it that deals with distance, so how can you possibly verify or dispute whether a complaint is justified or not unless you know at least where it’s coming from,” said Seiden. “In a memo I stated we don’t really care if the person gives their name but we need to know an address so then the police can go to that address to see if there is noise at that address. Without an address to go to there’s no way to verify.”
Bain was definitely vocal over the issue as he sat up at the dais during the meeting.
“Recently there was one police officer that took an anonymous complaint and, God bless them, they took their time to go around the entire area to check,” said Bain. “There is other places, in my humble opinion, that they can be that might need their help or be of more importance. This is the situation we’re talking about here. Don’t consider the argument that if you live on the other side of town you drive by a house, hear noise and then you can make an anonymous complaint. This is only about noise, nothing else.”
Miami Springs Police Chief Pete Baan eventually was asked by council members to approach the podium and give his important opinion on the matter.
“We have two basic types of complaints,” said Baan. “One if there is no distance, a barking dog or something of that nature, we go to the source of the address where the complaint is at, we hear the noise, we take action and normally it’s just a warning and we’ll write it up and forward a copy to code enforcement in the morning.
“And, two, if the music is coming from a business, we’ll go to the business, stand 50 feet away unless there’s been a special permit that says otherwise and if we hear the music and it’s plainly audible within 50 feet, we’ll walk up to the business owner, ask them to turn the music down, which they almost always do, and we forward the report to code enforcement in the morning.”
Seiden then chimed in and made the point that the the entire purpose of no longer allowing calls to remain completely anonymous was to avoid the “wild goose chase” scenario for Springs cops when they have to go out and investigate a complaint.
“The only reason we looked at it a different way is that instead of having the police having to circumvent the circumference of what may be 50 or 100 feet depending on the situation, it would be a lot easier for them if they have an address to go to,” said Seiden. “For instance, say something like 123 Meadowlark Lane, you go there, we don’t necessarily care about a name, where police can send their car to do it efficiently and appropriately. They don’t have to go to any other place. Thus they don’t have to be thinking about this direction or that direction. It’s a fairly simple process, not requiring a name, just an address.”
“Yeah, but if they have an address, now you have a name,” said Councilman Jaime Petralanda.
“Not necessarily,” countered Seiden.
“You could simply say the 300 block of ... whatever, Meadowlark Lane. We would prefer a specific location, somebody who makes a complaint to stand up with it and say it but if they don’t, they don’t have to under the current policy.”
“The point is the police need to have a place to go to make sure the complaint is legitimate,” said Councilman Michael Windrem.
When the idea of possibly letting a city code enforcement representative handle the complaint and save the cops the headache, that was quickly shot down.
Not only did City Manager Ron Gorland jump in the conversation to inform council that there was only a single code enforcement officer employed by the city, which would involve drastically changing hours, but Baan jumped back up to the podium to let them know of another potential problem where a homeowner may not look at a code enforcement officer with quite the same respect as a law officer.
“I don’t think that would be a very good idea,” said Baan. “That’s because you certainly have the potential for things to get very confrontational. I’m not necessarily talking about the current establishment we’re talking about now (referring to Woodys West End Tavern, which has been in the news recently regarding loud music complaints), but just perhaps a private home or something.”
Mayor Zavier Garcia finally entertained a motion to take a vote, which Bain made and Windrem seconded, prompting the unanimous vote.