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Letter: Response to 'Mayor Smiley pushes for noise camera installation in Providence'

To the Editor:

We appreciated Herald senior staff writer Ciara Meyer’s Mar. 21 article regarding Mayor Smiley’s proposal to use noise cameras to address one of the most prevalent sources of excessive and unnecessary noise we hear about through our Community Noise Survey. Over 90% of Providence residents’ survey submissions indicate they are exposed to vehicle noise, especially modified mufflers and over-amplified audio systems. 

In Ms. Meyer’s article, a member of the Brown University School of Public Health faculty explained that exposure to excessive noise “negatively (impacts) physical and mental health” and that noise levels were higher in lower-income neighborhoods. Nonetheless, she opposes installing noise cameras in those areas due to the potential for higher levels of surveillance — despite the fact that these neighborhoods suffer the most from the adverse effects of high noise levels.

That seems contrary to the core idea of public health, while also privileging a small subset of people who deliberately produce unnecessary noise, degrading the health of others. Somehow, people who advocate for more equitable allocation of public resources to address community disparities seem instead to prefer an equal allocation when it comes to noise cameras. 

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But don’t the city residents most exposed to noise deserve equitable relief from it? 

Providence should allocate its noise cameras equitably — i.e., in areas where  vehicle noise is most prevalent or residents complain about it the most, in order to  address its adverse health effects. It should not put them in quiet, low-traffic areas  based on a perverse notion of “equality” or other claims that undermine public health. 

John Wilner 
Communications Coordinator,
The Providence Noise Project

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