The Backyard Beat



Const. Khoa N. Hoang

Downtown businesses shift their focus from indoor winter shopping to outdoor summer patios with the warmer weather. Many of us cannot resist the enticement of a downtown patio full of patrons, including me. But what if that noisy bar atmosphere was next door to you?

Unfortunately, many of our downtown residents do not welcome patio season. The overwhelming constant noise of people yelling, doors slamming, and music blaring all hours of the night leaves much to be desired. Even more common are noisy neighbours. And downtown living reveals we have more noisy neighbours than any other district in our city.

My recent search on the Ottawa Police Service computer revealed nothing surprising. Most noise complaints in our area are initiated in the Centretown bar district followed closely by Carleton University’s Old Ottawa South community. The two neighbourhoods combined for a total of 23 per cent of all noise downtown complaints in 2011.

Every summer, my office receives hundreds of noise complaints, many of which have escalated over years, dividing neighbours and raising tensions to uncontrollable levels. These are volatile scenarios. Large loud parties have a way of turning ugly in a blink of an eye and the combination of excessive drinking in large numbers can be dangerous.

My experience tells me that renters are more likely than home owners to blast their music and that youths are far more likely to exceed acceptable sound levels than older adults. But don’t lose hope, friends; there are recommendations that I have to help curb the tension among divided foes before the SWAT team enters that frat house.

Relationships are everything in my business and they should also be the primary focus of every healthy community. Relationships establish respect and lead to trust. So it’s important to remember a few basic rules to ensure neighbours get along during the 2012 party season.

First, always get to know your neighbours. The Mere Exposure Theory states that the more we are exposed to a condition the more comfortable we become to that very condition. Same goes with people! So get to know each other as often as possible, so that when one person crosses the line both sides are more likely to make accommodations and resolve the conflict.

The second rule and one that has always benefited me is to always notify your neighbours two weeks in advance of an expected loud party. This courtesy allows all affected residents to plan for the event and conveniently promotes the first rule!

Finally, keep your loud parties reasonable. Nobody wants to rain on your parade and stop you from having fun, but if you can’t control everyone at the party then don’t have that many people. Music should also be turned off at a reasonable time; if you live downtown music should not be blasting until the early morning.

If those three simple rules are too much to ask and I understand that they are for many people, then expect a bylaw complaint from the neighbours. You can do this by dialing 3-1-1 which will be redirected to OPS if bylaw is no longer working or the situation is potentially dangerous. Offenders may be fined almost $400 per visit and our city councillors have made it clear that this type of complaint is serious. Officers will attend the scene for assessment and callers can ask to be anonymous.

However, there is the potential for you to be called to court if the fined subject pleas “not guilty” so making notes would help prove your case. Of course, all this could be avoided if neighbours took the time to establish a trusting relationship and promoted respect for one another as all healthy communities do.