By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
One man's tunes is another man's ear-splitting horror of sleep deprivation and enemy of all that is peaceful and serene.
To the listener, it's music; but to everyone else, it's just noise.
And while it's largely open to interpretation, the loud noise ordinance says that if you cause too much of it, it could cost you.
The ordinance dictates a $500 fine for violators, and the numbers have steadily increased in recent years in Killeen.
While Killeen police officers have found the ordinance to be effective in deterring noise violations in vehicles, the Killeen City Council wants to explore ways of improving enforcement at residences.
Nine out of 10 violations come from moving vehicles – only a handful of the violators get caught in their homes.
Killeen police Chief Dennis Baldwin told the council Tuesday that there is an inherent difficulty with this sort of violation – officers have to hear it.
Since most people don't report this sort of violation, Baldwin said, the officers just deal with violators while on patrol; and they are much more likely to stumble upon a vehicle making noise than a house.
"We wrote over a thousand (tickets) last year, 97 so far this month, but 90 percent come from vehicles," Baldwin said. "We do use (a device to measure decibel level) for clubs and residents alike."
Councilwoman JoAnn Purser said she'd like to see the ordinance modified if possible so that it can really send a message to violators.
"If two residents within 200 feet complain, there's a problem … I think we need to give our law enforcement some teeth to enforce this," she said.
Councilman Larry Cole brought the issue to the council because of several complaints recently sent his way from residents who feel that KPD hasn't solved the issue.
One of those residents is Annette Rouch, who is very upset.
"On June 7, my neighbors had a karaoke machine over there, and there was a whole group of them," she said. "It's like this all the time. We have to go to bed early just to get two or three hours of sleep."
Rouch addressed the council Tuesday. Rouch said she has documented numerous instances in which the police were called to her neighbor's residence, and still, the noise continues.
Baldwin said the officers can check out the home and the surrounding properties, and if they witness a violation, the officers can act. But if they don't see anything, there isn't anything they can do but wait for another complaint or return at random intervals.
"If they are violating the ordinance, they're going to get caught eventually," Baldwin said.
Baldwin arranged to have Cole participate in a ride along in a KPD patrol car one night last week, and specifically made it a point to check out Rouch's home on Edgewood Drive. At that time, there was no activity at the residence in question.
Cole said he brought the item to the council because it deserves attention, and there is no obvious solution.
"I'm asking for the council to direct the staff to look at the loud music ordinance, review it, see if it could be improved," Cole said. "It should be consistent with the barking dog ordinance. There needs to be a set procedure for the citizens to come in and file."
Currently, the procedure is to pick up the phone and call.
But that's just the problem, said City Attorney Kathy Davis, as most people don't call the police for that kind of violation. Those who do often refuse to be identified and don't become part of the process once it goes to court.
"We have a pretty strict stance on it, but if the citizen doesn't want to engage (the violator), it's up to the police officer," Davis said. "We enforce it as far as the police can do. If people really want to see the ordinance enforced, they're going to have to step forward and testify to what they saw."
Councilman Juan Rivera said it's a difficult issue.
"I don't know how we can control this to be honest," Rivera said. "According to what I see, they can get a fine the first time, the second time an arrest. But they have to be caught."
As for now, the council has instructed the staff to look and review the process by which citizens can make a complaint in the hopes that they can bring the issue to court.
Contact Justin Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568.