People hate when prices go up. Listen to the complaints about
gas prices going up 20 percent or about CSU parking permit prices
going up next year. While filling up your tank and looking for a
spot might cost you a few more bucks, that is nothing compared to
how much a noise violation fine will hit your wallet.
The city of Fort Collins has increased the fine for unreasonable
noise violations from $200 to a whoppin’ $1,000. No that is not a
typo: That is a 500 percent increase.
Apparently, fighting noise in Fort Collins is starting to cost
According to Lt. Jim Szakmeister of Fort Collins Police
Services, the increase is in response to the overriding view of
City Council that noise nuisance significantly decreases the
quality of life in the city.
People who have the cops called on them are not going to get a
grand fine. The fine can be dropped based on how cooperative the
violators are with the police, how many offenses the noise
polluters have, how out of the control the party is, among other
things. FCPS calls it cooperative impact. But still, the standing
fine rate is $1,000.
Get this: the fine of a DUI – $1,000. From this perspective, the
city regards drinking and driving and having a loud party as the
same level of offensiveness. Absurd.
But the sketchiest thing about this is that the city does not
define what is unreasonable. While cities like Denver have a
decibel level to determine what is unreasonable, the wonderful city
of Fort Collins leaves it up to the responding police officers to
deem what is unreasonable and what isn’t.
While one officer might feel a boombox on the back porch on a
Saturday night is a noise nuisance and will stick someone with a
$1,000 fine, another officer might let someone off who has a live
band playing on the front lawn on Sunday night.
When laws and city codes are subjective they become unfair and
Szakmeister said that a few people cause the problem that makes
this kind of response necessary. He also wants to ensure that this
enforcement is not singling out students but anyone who violates
the city code.
With classes winding down and as people start planning their
graduation parties, they should know that the noise they produce
can cost them a lot more than they think.
In an internal e-mail between city employees I have obtained
about the fine, it states:
“When enforcing a loud party violation or any other noise
violation, it is important that officers not set expectations to
the violators of what will happen in court. Please do not mention
fines to the violators. If a violator asks about the fine, you can
tell them that it is now $1,000. HOWEVER (sic), if they are
cooperative, you can tell them that you will pass this on to the
prosecutor for consideration of a lighter fine. The prosecutors ask
that you DO NOT (sic) mention anything else about the fine.”
The new policy is unfair in a number of ways. First, I don’t
feel the city is not working hard enough to make the fine increase
public. If the city is going to bump the price by $800, fine, there
isn’t much the public can do, but the city owes it to people to
make them aware of the huge increase.
Secondly, the city needs to come up with a legal definition of
what is unreasonable. Leaving it up to the individual responding
police officers is unfair and subjective. What other city codes and
laws allow police to determine when a nuisance has occurred?
Thirdly, it is not like parties have become an epidemic in the
city. Szakmeister said calls responding to parties in the last
three years have decreased while enforcement has gone up. Instead
of City Council caving in to a few disgruntled citizens complaining
about some punks blasting 50 Cent on Friday night, maybe the
council should focus on the alarmingly increasing drug trade in
Fort Collins or violent attacks at parties. Those are things that
significantly decrease the quality of life in the city.
Chris is the opinion editor for the Collegian.