Thursday, May 28, 2009

Implications of the Noise Abatement Act

What more, what oonu want de poor people do?
Every dance whe dem keep oonu mek it curfew ­
Operation Ardent, Buju Banton

Protect and serve my ass, I am so tired of police shutting down dances. Really? 3am is an acceptable time to roll up and say; “Plug out and shut down.” When you are in the middle of the St. Andrew metropolis, you know, those none residential type areas.
Recently I strutted through Uptown Monday, on this particularly clear and warm night with a good mix of people creating a decent enough vibe. The crazy Japanese girls in their kimonos and some lost looking white boys perusing the actions of the ‘Dagga Masters’ and frozen in awe as the Negresses ‘Dash out dem hole’.

So it was somewhat painful to see uniforms moving intently towards the sector, not to say turn down but instead turn off. Leaving patrons-me-to wonder if the only buildings in the immediate and not so immediate surroundings are commercial structures, which are closed until the next business day, why is it necessary to flex the muscles of justice so taut? One would think that with a crime rate as high as it is in Jamaica, it would be a good idea to keep the ‘criminals’ occupied at least during the witching hours in order to ensure the safety of the uptown brown people.

It is painfully obvious that the Jamaican government doesn’t care about Dancehall and in most cases that’s a good thing. It’s a good thing that they don’t care enough to do anything that would remotely be sustainable and positive in advancing the culture and people who choose to inhabit the space. It is due to this stand off relationship that this feral freedom and innovation thrives. However there has got to be a line and it seems the law keeps overstepping it. Presently our good tourism minister (Hon. Edmund Bartlett) cowers in fear the day when Barack ‘buss’ Cuba big. But instead of actually taking a good look at what we have and how we can improve it we have noise abatement acts to keep us in line.

At present Section 3 of the Noise Abatement Act, which came into effect in 1997, states that ' person shall, on any private premises or in any public place at anytime of day or night (a) sing, or sound or play upon any musical or noisy instrument; or (b) 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 100 metres from the source of such sound and is reasonably capable of causing annoyance to persons in the vicinity'. To me this “Act” feels more like a guideline and is fraught with vagueness, which ultimately leaves this law so open to interpretation. For example what constitutes as an annoyance and to whom? And is there a machine to measure decibels past or exactly to the 100 meters from the source of the sound and what is the appropriate level?

The scope of offense is as follows; the first aspect of the offence relates to the Noise Level. This is measured in terms of the distance from which the sound is heard. The second aspect deals with whether the sound is “reasonably” capable of causing annoyance to persons. Both aspects must be examined before it can be considered that an offence has been committed.

The second aspect which seems purely subjective depends on factors such as the area in which the noise activity is taking place, the time of day and the nature and duration of the activity. In which case, the police may act on their own initiative and assess the situations. Which has caused the confiscation of equipment and left many promoters seeing red and patrons feeling cheated as not enough party was got for their money spent, both before and at the event. The act states that:

Where the noise occurs in the vicinity of any dwelling house, hospital, hotel infirmary, nursing home or guest house, between 2am and 6am on Saturday or Sunday morning and is audible beyond a distance of 100 metres, it will automically be presumed that the noise causes annoyance. The same applies from midnight to 6am of the following mornings:

Really midnight that’s a suitable time? Please.
Now here’s the million-dollar question. If in a Global Recession, inflations only going one direction and an already strapped for cash government with factories and bauxite plants that provide employment shutting their doors forever, can we afford to treat the music and culture the main lure for the oh-so-important tourists in the same business as usual manner as we have been doing for so long? Sadly I really don’t anticipate silver linings for these dark clouds instead maybe Portia on a $200 000 note.

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