Thursday, April 27, 2017

St. Petersburg's noise issue is not just in downtown, it's citywide

An analysis of the addresses with more than six (6) repeat calls reveals there were a total of 59 addresses that account for 650 calls. 


St. Petersburg Fl
Public Opinion by author: Robert Neff 

An examination of the St. Petersburg Police Call logs, as provided via a Public Records request, concluded that the St. Petersburg noise issue is not just a downtown issue, it's citywide.

While the City has access to the same Police call logs, there appears to not have been any effort to understand nor investigate the noise issue outside of the downtown bar scene. This was due to resident complaints.

My review of the data found the address could be separated into four categories:
  1. Business (Businesses are defined as bars, clubs, entertainment complexes, hotels, restaurants and storefronts), 
  2. Residences (Homes, Apartments, Condos), 
  3. Intersections
  4. Individuals. The address for the one noise citation for an individual was not found in the data and not included. 

Addresses with More Than 6 or More Repeat Calls

An analysis of the addresses with more than six (6) repeat calls reveals there were a total of 59 addresses that account for 650 calls. 
  •  13 Business had 239 Calls
  •  43 Residences had 366 Calls
  •    3 Intersections had 45 Calls
The data provided in a public record request from the St. Petersburg Police Department does not identify the categories. Hence, I initially focused on the "Top 30" repeat offenders. Then expanded to addresses with 6 or more repeat calls.

According to the data, residents are impacted by bars, restaurants, clubs, entertainment complexes, car boom boxes and other residences. The City and Police failed to identify that there were 27,638 calls for noise and zero citations to businesses and residences from 2009-2016. The conclusion is, St. Petersburg’s noise ordinance is ineffective.

The data analysis of the 2015 and 2016 noise calls logs focused on four areas.
  1. Key Findings
  2. 2015/2016 Comparison of Repeat Noise Calls by Count
  3. Top 30 Noise Call Rankings
  4. Noise ordinance data model
  5. Additional recommendations

1. Key Findings

The City has not identified the types of noise offenders nor where they are located. 
  • The data identifies at least four types of offenders: businesses, residences, individuals, and intersections†. Businesses are defined as
    bars, clubs, entertainment complexes, hotels, restaurants and storefronts.  
  • In 2016, businesses had six less businesses than residences in the Top 30 Noise Calls, but generated more noise calls for police to investigate. Businesses impact a greater number of residents in the 1000' plus perimeter than a residence would. 
  • While there was an overall drop in calls from from 2015 to 2016, the repeat call percentage did not noticeably change from 2015 to 2016. If this trend is true for past years and continues, an increase or decrease in noise call volume will not change the percentage of calls. 
Reducing repeat calls will reduce the noise call volume. This can be accomplished through education and issuing citations.

  • Mayor Kriseman and City Council have no oversight to identify repeat noise calls to businesses, residences, individuals and intersections. The number of repeated calls  is a waste of resident taxes. If citations were issued, the cost to taxpayers for dispatch to take the call and police to respond would decrease. 
  • The City has the means to measure the noise ordinance’s success, but has no plan in place, according the the presentation for the 2nd Noise Ordinance Public Meeting.  
  • The City has not properly identified the types of noise offenders and their location. 
  • The 2016 noise calls saw two bars and entertainment complexes, Flamingo Resort and Hollywood Nights South, move into the #1 and #2 position in the Top 30 Noise Calls. Both are located outside the downtown area.   
  • From 2015 to 2016, the number of addresses reporting noise calls decreased from 3,348 to 2,921. However, the number of calls increased from 204 to 220.
  • There was an 1% increase in the number of repeat calls over 30. This accounted for an increase in 31 calls. These were from bars and entertainment complexes (businesses). 
  • Noise Codes Compliance. St. Petersburg does not have a noise compliance program. The data and trend analysis’s results warrant a program to ensure residents the noise ordinance is in compliance and tax dollars are not wasted. The noise compliance could be hosted on a web page similar to the Codes Compliance web page for “Reducing blight and improving livability”.  
  • The City issued 16 citations to individuals since 2009.
  • A data model will identify the repeat offenders. This would include key metrics and reports that can be automatically generated, and email and shared with City employees and neighborhoods. There will be an initial cost to build the model. Future costs would be for enhancements and maintenance.

2. 2015/2016 Comparison of Repeat Noise Calls 


Note: The time of day was not analyzed. Police did not provide the incident time in the call timestamp.

3. TOP 30 Noise Call Rankings

While the overall number of calls decreased by 427 in 2016, the noise calls to bars, clubs and entertainment complexes, and intersections increased, however...
  1. In 2016 an entertainment complex, Flamingo Resort, and bar, Hollywood Nights South, took over the #1 and #2 spots. 
  2. In 2016, businesses which include bars and clubs, had six less businesses than residences in the Top 30, but generated more noise calls for police to investigate. 
  3. 2016 saw one more business added.  
  4. In 2016, residences saw a decrease by four and 96 less noise calls than 2015. 

4. Noise ordinance data model

A data model will identify where the noise issues and who are the repeat offenders and action taken. The model would include a heat map to identify the hot spots. While downtown bars have been the focus when, citywide, the data shows there are repeat offenders at both businesses and residences. The data model should incorporate: 

  1. Noise ordinance database. This would pull data from the multiple data sources to create data tables, creating a new database. 
  2. Noise Citations. This data would be merged into the new noise ordinance database. Reports can be generated to track the citations history. The reports would assess the noise ordinance’s success or failure. 
  3. Key metrics will need to be developed to establish the noise ordinance metrics that assess the noise ordinance's success or failure. 
  4. Trend Analysis would determine the number of noise calls, time of day, day of the week, location, responding officer's notes, call and response times, applicable noise ordinance. 
  5. Most data points can be pulled from the data base. Some may requires data entry. In addition, the Call For Service Reports could be updated to include additional data points.   
  6. Heat map would superimpose the plot of the noise by address and number of times police were called to the location on a map.
  7. Reports would be both manually generated for analysis and automatically generated and emailed to city employees and neighborhood leads. Council members and neighborhood leads could monitor activity in their districts.
  8. Compliance web page for the city and public to review. Transparency is key to a successful noise ordinance compliance program.   

5 Additional recommendations

  1. The rankings require in depth research to identify the business name for each address. Changes in ownership will need to be considered.  
  2. Sometimes city blocks are used. Sometimes units are left off condos or apartments. There must be consideration for these occurrences. If an address is having repeat calls, dispatch could be alerted to gather additional information.
  3. Audio calls should be available for the responding officer and even the noise compliance web site. In addition, repeat calls to an address should trigger the investigating party listen to these. The audio archive requirement may need to adjusted or permanently maintained. Associated cost would need to be identified and budgeted.  
  4. To conduct accurate reporting, data analysis revealed an issue with how calls are reported. Dispatch and or officers were assigning calls to residences instead of business. Business names had been abbreviated or misspelled. Any search for data on a offender will have to consider the area. Here, the Call For Service Reports and audio calls should be reviewed to determine the location, outcome and to understand what the caller’s reaction to the noise.  
  5. Dispatch under reports calls and this skews the data in favor of the offender. Calls should not be rolled up into one Call ID.
  6. Repeat offenders. City should does not know which business or residences are repeat offenders. A report would solve this. 
  7. Reports and heat maps would assist officers and neighborhoods to identify and mitigate noise issues. A targeted data analysis revealed a 4 to 1 ratio of non-noise related calls to noise calls.  That is, there is 4 times more likely to be thefts, burglaries, call for officers, drugs, mental issues. 
Intersections are the least understood and warrant further investigation. Intersections, for example, 13TH AV S / DR MARTIN LUTHER KING JR ST S, are easily identifiable by the two streets separated by the forward slash. Understanding this data, requires a review of the Call For Service reports and call audio. This will identify how the call was generated, by officers or residents. The Call For Service Report requires the nature, time of day and day of the week, and location. This was outside the data analysis' scope. Unless the city provides the data for free, this analysis would incur significant cost.

Should you have a noise-related story to share or have a question, contact me directly via email.

Public input is being sought on the Noise Ordinance. You may express your concerns and thoughts by emailing the Mayor at mayor@stpete.org and your council member, council@stpete.org

About the Author

Mr. Neff has run hi-end eCommerce operations for major national and international brands. He was Chief Web Operations Division at United States Mint and an executive in luxury retail eCommerce. He has several startups under his belt and has worked in Silicon Valley, Washington D.C., and Dallas. in the past, he was Director Online Sales for a consumer product company, directed eCommerce marketing operations and online analytical operations. Now retired, he is enjoying life as an award winning photographer, writer, and contemporary artist who has shown his work at one of Art Miami's International Art Shows, Spectrum Miami. He occasionally tests online products for companies in Silicon Valley. The value he brings is institutional knowledge from years of experience. 
When the City of St. Petersburg noise issue became an issue for others and him, Mr. Neff dusted off his skills to conduct an investigation, data collection and data analysis.
 The opinions here are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bay Post Internet or the Blog Publishers where it appears

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