Tallahassee Police Department Seeks Noise Ordinance Changes to Curb Large Gatherings and Crime – Tallahassee Reports

City of Tallahassee officials are recommending that city commissioners enact an amendment to the current noise ordinance to address concerns noted by law enforcement.

These concerns relate to the lack of cooperation with businesses to file a noise complaint where large groups have gathered.

The agenda item says the city’s noise ordinance is ineffective in addressing the current problem because it prevents Tallahassee Police Department (TPD) officers from filing a noise complaint. The only option available to disperse gatherings involves a business agreeing to a trespassing notice, which allows TPD to clear crowds.

However, this action involves shutting down the business for the night and usually results in the parties moving from place to place during the same night.

The problem started during the COVID pandemic.

At the start of the pandemic, when businesses and nightclubs closed for COVID safety measures, large gatherings in parking lots became an alternative for residents seeking nighttime entertainment. These parking lot rallies didn’t end when COVID safety measures changed, they grew in popularity.

Law enforcement officials report that these gatherings have caused disruption in residential neighborhoods and are responsible for illegal activity, including violent crime.

In October 2020, the City established the Crowd Control Task Force consisting of one supervisor and eight officers, with the goal of dispersing crowds as quickly and safely as possible. The task force identifies problem areas, works with property and business owners, and patrols gathering sites. Overall, the task force resulted in multiple felony arrests (181), illegal drug confiscations, and illegally held firearm seizures (58).

City officials point out that the task force has used all means at its disposal to deal with these gatherings. However, the issue has drawn a disproportionate amount of resources, including over 6,000 hours, which equates to over $250,000 in operating costs to date.

Changes

The recommended changes allow law enforcement to be the complainant, initiate noise enforcement, which is common practice for similar nuisance violations.

In addition, the changes maintain enforcement based on land use, such as urban core versus residential, hold property owners responsible for noise pollution on their property, and increase penalties.

The agenda item notes that Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Gainesville enforce noise ordinances based on land use and allow officers to pursue violations.

Sara H. Byrd