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April 14, 2009

Beverly considers rules to quiet loud parties

BEVERLY — City officials are considering tough new rules that would allow police to fine loud partyers, confiscate their boomboxes and even send their landlords to jail.

The proposed changes are in response to an increasing number of complaints from residents about noise caused primarily by college students living off campus, Ward 4 City Councilor Kevin Hobin said.

"I don't want to target students, but that's been the majority of the complaints," he said.

Hobin, who has proposed the changes along with Ward 6 Councilor Judith Cronin, said more students are living off campus since colleges began cracking down on drinking. The weak economy may also be contributing to the problem, he said. Students can save money by sharing an apartment, and landlords are anxious to fill their rental units, Hobin said.

The proposed rules, which must be approved by the City Council, would impose fines of $100 for a first and second offense, and $150 for subsequent offenses for anyone who plays music, a radio, a television or a musical instrument "at a volume as to disturb the quiet, comfort or repose of neighboring inhabitants."

Police would also be allowed to confiscate boomboxes or other devices installed in cars or carried in public if they are being played too loudly.

If one property becomes a regular party house, police will send the landlord a letter threatening to fine him up to $200 and throw him in jail for up to six months.

Police Chief Mark Ray said the new rules would give police the ability to decide what constitutes a loud party.

The current rules require the Health Department to measure the decibel level, a practice that is so time-consuming police rarely use it.

"Now, we can go down and make a reasonable judgment," Ray said. "Hopefully, it stops with a fine. It sends a strong message to people who repeatedly cause problems."

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