Sunday, May 5, 2019

Police targeted vehicles for noise, not bars in St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg Fl
Public Opinion
By author: Robert Neff

From 2013-15, City of St. Petersburg, Florida noise citation analysis shows police targeted vehicles, not bars. Throughout the City of St. Petersburg, resident complaints about the bar noise to Mayor Kriseman, City Council, and resident calls to the police were brushed aside.

Police are a resident’s first line of defense to protect them from unwanted noise. Unfortunately, the police have the discretion to pick and choose where they direct patrols and to whom they issue tickets. The Mayor Kriseman, City Council and police have proven over and over, they cannot be trusted to protect resident’s rights when it comes to unwanted noise.

From 2013-2015, the downtown and neighborhood noise complaints for bars and vehicles were well document, however, the bars were ignored while police had 29 directed patrols in South St. Petersburg for Childs Park, Obama Express, and other locations.

Police are free to use their discretion to target or overlook community reported noise for businesses, residences, and vehicles. However, police have exercised their discretion to target vehicles with loud music and not target bars with repeated complaints. 

Research also shows the police are not consistent and accurate in annotating the noise ordinance section and paragraph. Instead, the top level noise ordinance's section number tended to be used verses the section and paragraph, where the paragraph defines vehicle, bar or residence. 

On July 21, 2014, Mayor Kriseman selected Police Chief Holloway to lead the St. Petersburg Police Force. The next year, there was a decrease in directed patrols targeting vehicle noise in south St. Petersburg. In 2016, one bar was cited four times for noise. The bars seemed to getting a free pass even when the were repeat noise complaints.

During Chief Holloway’s tenure the noise citation rate decreased from 1.3% to 0.6% and continued to drop each year. Data suggests Police Chief Holloway was not concerned with the noise calls, nor was he concerned with the Mayor’s “Broken Window” that states stop the small crime and larger crime will be reduced. This is especially true for the many bars that had 4 to 7 times as many calls for crime than noise calls.

Noise citations are included in the Uniform Code Report (UCR) that is given to the FBI. On the Police Arrest Report, police use report code 90z.  However, Noise is considered Disorderly Conduct. This is report code  90C, Crime Against Society, where the definition is any behavior that tends to disturb the public peace or decorum, scandalize the community, or shock the public sense of morality. However, Police Chief Holloway posts Noise Nuisance under, All Other Offenses - 90Z, Crimes Against persons, Property and Society.

Under Police Chief Holloway, not only have citations decreased, but police are not issuing citations for repeat calls. Instead the police are asking the bar to repeatedly turn down the music. By declaring the music is not plainly audible, a citation is not issued, and there is no Arrest Report. Thus, there is no citation to trigger an addition to 90z category in the Police Code Report that is given to the FBI. Thus crime numbers for 90z category are kept low.

As previously reported, the crime calls for noise are kept low because police operators are allowed to assign calls to another event. There is no consistency in this approach. While this was established for traffic calls, this is used for noise calls. Thus calls are under reported. Therefore, if you want to ensure your call is not assigned to another event, ask the police operator for an event number for your call to report noise.  

For example, Officer Brandow responded to a call with five ladies present. While we could all hear the noise, he could not. He stated, the City would not issue a citation to a bar because they did not want to put them out of business. Interesting to hear that a bar has a business model that is dependent on noise and the City is helping the bar mitigate the risk!

My research has also shown different levels of coordination between the Mayor, Mayor’s Office, City Attorney’s Office, Police Legal, Police Chief, Police officers, and Council Member Kornell to target resident(s), who complain about the noise.

Council Member Kornell is Council Chair for the Public Services & Infrastructure (PS&I) Committee. PS&I Is responsible the noise ordinance revision. He had used his position as Chair to joke about the noise, and state the music industry is worth million and millions. In another meeting, he stated the music industry is worth billions and billions of dollars.

In May 2014, I contacted Council Member Kornell and Mayor Kriseman concerning the noise at the Flamingo Resort. Instead of my Council Member Kornell contacting me, he had a series of emails and conversations with the Police Community Service Officer Kelly, and Jack Dougherty, who is both Flamingo Resort and Board President for the Skyway Marina District, to develop a strategy to deal with me. Unfortunately, they did not share this with me. I found this email series in the second Public Record Request. The first Public Record Request for Konrell's emails omitted this email series. It was discovered after the Judge had dismissed the Flamingo Resort's initial lawsuit. 



The city has still failed to identify and address the police’s refusal to cite a bar. 

In addition to not finding the noise to be plainly audible (even when senior residents can hear it), there is a more serious issue. Mayor Kriseman’s email to Police Chief Holloway revealed the police are not enforcing the noise issue. In the April 11, 2017 email, Mayor Kriseman asked Police Chief Holloway to enforce the noise ordinance for two weeks.

The downtown and outside downtown bar noise is well documented, yet, the bars were not targeted. The police have emails, where residents other than me contacted the Police Chief Holloway. One resident had over twenty calls. One resident was so frustrated he contacted the Pinellas Sheriff. In a March 25, 2016 email from Assistant Chief Williams to Police Chief Holloway, A/C Williams stated, "...it appears he is LEO shopping." 


The City of St. Petersburg spent over two years researching and presenting on the noise ordinance...

The City of St. Petersburg spent over two years researching and presenting on the noise ordinance to the public and PS&I, yet, the City failed to hire a medical expert to provide a report on the noise’s negative impact on adult and kid’s health.

The City of St. Petersburg also failed to create a live test for council members to help them understand what it feels like to live near a bar or noise source. 

The City of St. Petersburg also failed to identify why police are not issuing citations.

In 2014, residents at my condominium first encountered noise from the Flamingo Resort. Nearby residents had noise complaints since 2009. Police reports show residents had walls shaking or windows vibrating. But from 2009-2017, there were over 180 calls to the police and no citations.

When bars were cited, the same bars seemed to be targeted.  Some bars avoided being cited. From 2013-2015, there were 59 calls to report noise at the Flamingo Resort. The 2015 Skyway Marina District’s meeting minutes for the Improvement Team mentioned noise issues at Atwater BBQ but not the calls to the Flamingo Resort.

During this time, the Flamingo Resort had approximately 329 calls for crime and non-crime with 15 arrests, which were not mentioned in the Skyway Marina Newsletter nor in the Skyway Marina District Improvement Team meeting notes. The crime and arrests reinforces the Mayor’s “Broken Window” theory. 

Meanwhile City Council Member Kornell’s was supporting Flamingo Resort via the email strategy. Kornell also accepted Flamingo Resort’s donations to his reelection campaign. 

In December 2015, Mayor Kriseman attended a Democratic event at the Flamingo Resort.

In May, 2019 the City Council is expected to pass the ill-conceived proposed noise ordinance. This clearly states the proposed noise ordinance supports businesses. This proposed noise ordinance  does not change the noise distances for businesses and nearby residences. By ignoring the decibel meter standard, the the city relies on time and distance, which states residents can be too close to music for the police to issue a citation. 

Unfortunately, sound does not discriminate and residents are at the mercy of a noise ordinance designed to support businesses. Incident Report 2017010636 is a clear example how the noise ordinance protects businesses. Police deemed this resident to be "too close" to the nearby The Landing at Jannus and did not issue a noise citation. 
THERE WAS NO ONE CITED AT THIS TIME, DUE TO THE DISTANCE OF THE BAR TO THE VICTIMS HOUSE NO
VIOLATION OCCURRED.
Thursday, March 02, 2017 at 11:02 PM. 
WE MET THE COMPL AND LISTENED TO THE NOISE COMPLAINT. I SPOKE WITH A/SGT SWANSON AND SHE IS SEEKING A
SOLUTION TO THIS PROBLEM WORKING WITH LEGAL AND SGT HILSDON. WE ASKED THE STAFF OF BARS PELICAN PUB,
AND JANNUS LIVE OUTSIDE 2ND FLOOR BAR IF THEY COULD LOWER THE MUSIC. THEY DID SO ON REQUEST. AT THE BAR I
SPOKE WITH MANAGER (W/F "JEFF KNIGHTS NIECE"). THIS IS THE SAME MANAGER THAT SGT SWANSON DEALT WITH LAST NIGHT.


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1 comment:

  1. Rats!!! My way of dealing with such places is to flood them with low spenders and take up all of their parking and then tell them that this can happen again if the noise gets out of hand. Involves a little community support and organization - but it has worked twice for me in the past. had to do it three times to a bar in Pennsylvania, but he finally got the message. I also wonder why nobody sues these places for the damage their noise does to ears? (We also flooded the local non-emergency and mayor action lines with scheduled callers with long messages about the problem in one place. Really got some attention.)

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