Sat | Sep 22, 2018

Garth Rattray | Enforce noise law

Published:Monday | March 5, 2018 | 12:00 AM
File Disc jockey Boom Boom selects tunes during birthday celebrations for Father Witty at Uptown Mondayz headquarters at Savannah Plaza, Half-Way Tree, on February 19. Dancehall sessions are often a nuisance to householders trying to get a night's rest.

I have several patients who have been suffering because of frequent night noises that invade the privacy and sanctity of their homes. The (night) noise makes them unable to sleep and results in several significant medical problems.

Calls to the relevant police have all been to no avail. The producers of loud noises don't care who they assail or when they assail others with their intrusive noises. And, obviously, several police personnel are ignorant of the Noise Abatement Act or are unwilling to enforce it.

Two of the most disturbing outcomes of night noises include an elderly lady who became so ill that she had to visit an emergency room repeatedly. She also had to abandon her home and sleep at her church on a regular basis. Reports to the police and several letters to the KSAC bore no fruit.

Another patient of mine schedules intermittent trips overseas to escape the incessant night noise that seriously jeopardises her health. The Constitution of Jamaica, Chapter III (Fundamental Rights and Freedoms of the Individual), states: "Whereas every person in Jamaica is entitled to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual ... to each and all of the following, namely life, liberty, security of the person, the enjoyment of property and the protection of the law ... ".

 

HEALTH RISKS

 

No one can enjoy their property while loud noises bombard their homes, especially at ungodly hours. Excess noise can result in anxiety (stress) symptoms, headaches, mood changes, sexual disturbance, increased agitation/aggression, irritability, insomnia and poor concentration.

The elderly and children are especially affected by loud noises. Children perform poorly in school and the elderly demonstrate increased rates of dementia. Of course, proximity to loud noises can result in varying degrees of deafness.

Loud noise can be used as an instrument for torture. CIA interrogators use loud music to disrupt the thoughts of prisoners so that they are unable to plan an escape and to 'break' them. And, in March 21, 1993, the FBI besieged the Davidian compound and blasted loud music to discombobulate those inside.

Many of our citizens are unable to sleep restfully at nights because of loud, intrusive noise emanating from clubs/street dances. Sleep disturbance can lead to accidents (as in the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown and others), automobile crashes and deaths, serious work-related accidents, reduced cognition, memory problems, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, poor libido, weight gain, anxiety/depression and premature death from all causes.

I believe that the Noise Abatement Act was well constructed. It states: "Subject to Subsection 2 and Section 5, no person shall, on any private premises or in any public place at any time of day or night, sing, or sound or play upon any musical or noisy instrument; or operate, or permit or cause to be operated, any loudspeaker, microphone or any other device for the amplification of sound, in such a manner that the sound is audible beyond a distance of 100 metres from the source of such sound and is reasonably capable of causing annoyance to persons in the vicinity ... ."

The act goes even further. If permission for a noisy event is granted and even if no one complains about being disturbed, there must be no loud noise between 2 o'clock and 6 o'clock in the morning on Saturday or Sunday and past midnight on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.

I believe that the act needs amending in keeping with our relatively new flexi-week legislation. And, it also needs updating to increase the penalties that may be imposed on offenders. Bearing in mind the breaching of our constitutional rights and the potentially serious health problems with loud noises and sleep deprivation, I am extremely concerned about the innumerable anecdotes of citizens calling the police only to be slighted or told that the noise makers have a permit.

The commercial benefit to a relative few people, the merriment that it provides some, can never compare to the harm that noisy parties and events do to many innocent citizens every single day.

I look forward to the proposed entertainment zones; I hope that they will be very far away from civilisation. And, I encourage the police to take noise complaints seriously.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.