Courtesy of State Comptroller’s Office
By Michael V. Cusenza
The number of noise complaints called in to the City’s 311 system has risen significantly in recent years, and the processes employed by the Police Department and State Liquor Authority to keep records of the complaints and follow up on enforcement needs to improve, according to a report recently released by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
The purpose of the analysis – “Responsiveness to Noise Complaints Related to New York City Nightlife Establishments” – was to determine whether the NYPD and the SLA have effectively addressed noise complaints related to nightlife establishments in the city. The audit period was Jan. 1, 2010 through March 31, 2016, with a focus on calendar years 2014 and 2015, DiNapoli said.
According to the report, the amount of noise complaints called in to 311 rose to 179,394 in 2015 from 86,365 in 2010. And over that same period, the annual number of noise complaints involving nightlife establishments also increased significantly, to 93,412 from 38,401.
“The number of noise complaints in NYC more than doubled between 2010 and 2015,” DiNapoli said.
Other audit findings include:
• The NYPD’s and the SLA’s efforts to communicate and coordinate noise mitigation strategies and tactics with each other were limited. Also, the SLA did not access and analyze pertinent data from NYC’s 311 system. As a result, certain establishments with numerous noise complaints lodged against them continued to operate with little or no notice from public oversight authorities to address such complaints.
• When the SLA took action against establishments with high levels of complaints, they were primarily due to violations other than those related to noise. In addition, actions were rarely taken (if ever) against certain establishments with comparatively high levels of noise complaints. The NYPD used its resources to respond to the same locations hundreds of times a year, often with little or no apparent effect on the numbers of complaints.
• The accuracy of records maintained by these agencies needs improvement. For example, according to 311 system data, NYPD officers issued a total of 14 summonses to several of the nightlife establishments we sampled. However, NYPD officials were able to provide supporting documentation for only 11 of the 14 reported summonses.
Locally, NYPD brass has acknowledged that as temps rise in the summer months, so do noise complaints.
“We have instituted a number of things at the precinct level that allow us to stay on top of such matters,” said Capt. Brian Bohannon, commanding officer of the 106th Precinct.
According to Bohannon, the command features a dedicated officer who tracks all reoccurring 311 complaints of noise each week; and the 106 has two dedicated officers between the hours of 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. who solely handle noise complaints from the 311 system.
Bohannon also pointed out that the precinct’s ability to tackle noise complaints will change drastically next month when the 106 goes live with the NYPD Neighborhood Policing Program.