Tallahassee city officials are recommending that city commissioners adopt a change to the current noise ordinance to address concerns noted by law enforcement.
These concerns relate to the lack of cooperation with businesses to initiate a noise complaint where large groups have gathered.
The agenda item states that the City’s noise ordinance is ineffective at addressing the current issue as it prevents Tallahassee Police Department (TPD) officers from initiating a noise complaint. The only available option to disperse the gatherings involves a business agreeing to a trespass notice, which allows TPD to clear the crowds.
However, this action includes having to close the business for the night and typically leads to parties moving from one location to the other in the same night.
The problem began during the COVID pandemic.
At the onset of the pandemic when businesses and nightclubs closed for COVID safety measures, large gatherings in parking lots became an alternative for residents seeking nighttime entertainment. These parking lot gatherings did not end when COVID safety measures changed, they have gained popularity.
Law enforcement reports that these gatherings have led to disruptions in residential neighborhoods and are responsible for illegal activity, including violent crime.
In October 2020, the City created the Crowd Control Taskforce comprised of a supervisor and eight officers, with the goal of dispersing crowds as quickly and as safely as possible. The Taskforce identifies problematic locations, works with property and business owners, and patrols the locations of the gatherings. Overall, the Taskforce has resulted in several felony arrests (181), illegal drug confiscations, and seizure of illegally possessed firearms (58).
City officials highlight that the Taskforce has used all the means at its disposal to address these gatherings. However, the issue has drawn a disproportionate number of resources, including more than 6,000 hours which amounts to over $250,000 of operating costs to date.
The recommended changes allow law enforcement to be the complainant, to initiate the enforcement of the noise nuisance, which is a standard practice for similar nuisance violations.
In addition, the changes maintain application by land use, such as urban core vs. residential, holds property owners accountable for a noise nuisance in their property and increases penalties.
The agenda item notes that Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and Gainesville applies noise ordinances based on land use and allows officers to pursue violations.