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Letter: Noise enforcement can take many forms

To the Editor:

We at the Providence Noise Project greatly appreciated the op-ed by Juliet Fang ’26, “We need to reduce noise pollution,” which we thought did an excellent job covering the sources and detrimental impacts of excessive noise in Providence and elsewhere. Unnecessary and unhealthy noise has been a significant public health issue in the city for far too long. Despite eight years in office, the current mayoral administration has not done enough to address noise, as evidenced by ongoing resident complaints and calls for ameliorative action.

Fang’s op-ed states that decibel limits are “difficult to enforce” and illustrates this through the example of a car or motorcycle booming down Thayer Street without a muffler. “A policeman would need to be present at the moment of infraction,” she writes. She then rightly advocates for investments in Providence’s enforcement structure beyond police patrols. We concur: There are a plethora of options to enforce noise restrictions that don't require police involvement, which the city should explore as potential responses.

One is “noise cameras,” which are already in use in cities around the world such as Paris and London, and are being tested in several U.S. municipalities, including New York City, Knoxville and Miami Beach. Noise cameras would operate similarly to the speed cameras Providence already uses, but with a microphone to detect excessive sound levels and a camera to take a photo of the offending vehicle’s license plate. Like speed cameras, a ticket would then be sent to the person to whom the vehicle is registered.

Another way to reduce noise levels is to let civilian personnel identify and cite sources of excessive volume, much like the municipal employees who currently enforce parking regulations here and in many cities. They are trained and authorized to issue citations to those who exceed parking time limits, and a similar group could do the same for those who exceed city sound limits — freeing armed police officers to respond to more serious issues. 

Ultimately, though, the best way to stop excessive and unnecessary noise is, as Councilmember John Goncalves called for in his recent Quality of Life Plan, to “de-normalize pervasive and harmful noise pollution” and encourage a culture change that seeks to prevent noise before it happens. To do so, the incoming Brett Smiley administration must develop and implement a city-wide policy that would encourage residents to reexamine the current dysfunctional culture of noise in Providence.

As the incoming mayor undoubtedly already knows, the long-suffering residents of the city stand ready and eager to help him fight noise pollution.

John Wilner

Communications Coordinator, Providence Noise Project



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