My neighborhood in Tempe is a pretty noisy place. The guys next door have a band practicing inside their house with the windows open every few days, and my neighbors across the back alley apparently have a band that practices there as well (I can hear them now as I'm typing, and whoever the singer/guitarist kid is, I've woken up several mornings to him butchering Bright Eyes covers in his backyard). Shit, there's one guy a few houses down who just bought himself a loud-ass radio-controlled car and is fucking around with it at all hours. Plus, there are trains that roll through town about a mile away from me throughout the night. It's a wonder I ever get any sleep at all.
I ought to just call the freakin' cops every time one of those noises irritates me, except I'd probably catch flak for wasting the pigs' time with frivolous calls. Of course, I'm joking. But apparently, if you live in Glendale and you're the director of the Arizona Supreme Court's Committee on Examinations and Character and Fitness, you can get the cops over any time you'd like, and have a neighbor whose band is practicing well before the city's 10 p.m. noise ordinance curfew arrested for disorderly conduct. Twice. In front of his three daughters, the oldest of whom is 4.
In mid-October, Zack Vinyard, the guitarist and vocalist for Glendale-based heavy industrial-ish band Rizir, e-mailed me complaining about his neighbors to the rear, Jon Nyhus and Carolyn de Looper (the aforementioned committee director), repeatedly calling the cops on his band's practice.
For more insight into Phoenix's music scene, visit Brendan Joel Kelley's "Ear Infection" blog.
I didn't pay much attention to Zack's e-mail at first. I figured he was being oversensitive, and probably playing too loudly. Later, I saw the police reports for some of the visits, like for an August 12 call where the responding officer wrote, "It should be noted, I did not hear any loud music in the immediate area," and concludes, "Not a crime."
The situation didn't seem like a big deal at least not until Zack e-mailed me on October 17 and told me he'd been arrested for disorderly conduct because the band was practicing in his home studio at 8:15 p.m. On October 21, he was arrested a second time for disorderly conduct.
The City of Glendale's noise ordinance states, "It shall be unlawful for any person to operate or permit to be operated any radio receiving set, phonograph, or sound producing or sound reproducing mechanism, between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. within the city in such a manner that the sound from such radio set, phonograph, sound producing or sound reproducing mechanism may be heard off of the premises upon which it is operated in such a manner as to create an excessive, unnecessary or offensive noise that a reasonable person of normal sensitivity residing in the area is caused discomfort or annoyance."
None of the visits by officers, or the arrests, were between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., as specified. I spoke to Officer Mike Barnett, the public information officer for the Glendale Police Department, and after reviewing Zack's arrests, he explained to me that Zack wasn't in trouble for violating the noise ordinance; he was arrested for disorderly conduct as defined by Arizona Revised Statute 13-2904. This states, "A. A person commits disorderly conduct if, with intent to disturb the peace or quiet of a neighborhood, family or person, or with knowledge of doing so, such person . . . 2. Makes unreasonable noise."
Really, this makes sense to me. I ought to use that to get the fucker with the R/C car popped for irritating the hell out of me, except I'm not an asshole, and both the noise ordinance and the Arizona Revised Statute specify "reason" as a factor.
I've spoken extensively to Zack Vinyard's neighbors, including Heather and Larry Graham, who live the closest to Zack's home studio door. Larry, who has terminal cancer and tells me he goes to sleep at 8 or 9 every night, told me, "Zack is playing at that time; I don't hear him. This is definitely an abuse of power. We've had the cops in my house four times; they said they couldn't hear anything."
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Wayne France, Zack's next-door neighbor to the west, echoes the Grahams' assertion that Zack's band practices aren't disturbing the neighborhood. Zack and his wife Kadie own their house, and their neighbors tell me that they're the only young family in the immediate area. Zack's youngest daughter is four months old, and her room is right outside Zack's studio, so it makes sense to me that Rizir's not bombing the neighborhood with noise pollution.
I've attempted to reach Mr. Nyhus and his wife, Ms. de Looper, on several occasions and haven't heard back from them. I'm not surprised actually, I'm just glad they don't live in my neighborhood.
The sad, shitty truth of the matter is that Zack may be convicted on these two misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct. For a 28-year-old family man who works two jobs to support his wife and daughters, paying tickets for having the band practice as well as spending several thousand dollars for an attorney to defend him is just ridiculous. Luckily, he has neighbors who are reasonable enough to show up in court and support him. I just hope that the complainant, Ms. de Looper, isn't so intimidating within the local legal community that she'll get away with harassing this poor guy.