Police to crack down on noise violations

Posted 6/9/21

SILER CITY — Siler City police will launch a new education and enforcement initiative next week to crack down on excessive noise violations from illegal vehicle exhaust systems.

Among all calls …

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Police to crack down on noise violations

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SILER CITY — Siler City police will launch a new education and enforcement initiative next week to crack down on excessive noise violations from illegal vehicle exhaust systems.

Among all calls to the town’s police department, vehicle noise complaints are among the most frequent, according to Siler City Police Chief Mike Wagner.

“It’s in the top three complaints that we get,” he said. “People are always asking me and complaining, ‘What can we do about these loud noises, particularly the exhaust mufflers that emanate these loud noises throughout the town?’”

Thunderous exhaust systems — or the absence of appropriate exhaust systems — are explicitly named in state law prohibitions against excessive noise. General Statute 20-128 outlaws willful operation of “a motor vehicle on a highway” that generates “excessive noise and unusual noise, annoying smoke or smoke screen.”

Such vehicles are also in violation of Siler City’s town ordinance.

“So it’s in violation of state law, and then in conjunction with the town ordinance, we’ve got both those things applying to these loud mufflers,” Wagner said. “And so we’re going to address those citizens’ concerns in compliance, just following the rule of law as far as what’s permissible by the state in the statute and what’s not.”

Starting on Monday, June 14, the initiative will begin. But police will be slow to punish violators, Wagner says.

“Our goal here is not to go out and write a bunch of tickets because I expect that many of these people may not know that it’s in violation of the law,” he said. “And so this is an educational campaign. We’re going to start doing some interventions of traffic stops to let owner operators know that their exhaust system and loud noises violates state law. We’re going to give them a brochure that outlines the statute, educates them on what they can do to prevent it, and we’re going to create a log.”

State law affords drivers 30 days to bring their vehicles into compliance after police advise them of the violation. Siler City police will tack on an additional 15 days of lenience before enforcement begins, Wagner says.

“And so basically, on that 46th day,” he said, “if we stop the same car again with the same violation, then at that time we’ll issue them a summons.”

It’s unclear what residents can expect if they must attend court. Fines are not explicitly outlined, according to Wagner.

“The judge can sometimes waive the fine, or if they’re in compliance by then, they might dismiss it all together,” he said.

But he expects few will have to visit court unless they ignore police admonition. His department will try to ensure everyone willing to bring their cars into compliance with state law can reasonably do so within the allotted time period.

“We’re going to educate them on some local repair shops in town that could possibly do the work for them,” he said. “We’re really trying to make it easy.”

The education before enforcement mantra is part of a larger effort in Siler City and across Chatham County by police officers to establish improved community relations and trust. Wagner is working, he says, to overcome a history of skepticism among Siler City residents.

“It’s all about establishing legitimacy in the community,” he said. “And when you’re able to listen to complaints and treat people fairly, regardless of enforcement action, or what you can or cannot do, you will still at least establish some type of trust because they were treated fair and they were educated. And that’s despite whatever the situation may be — they may not agree with it — but at least they were treated correctly.”

Reporter D. Lars Dolder can be reached at dldolder@chathamnr.com and on Twitter @dldolder.


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