Turn down the noise

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

Noise violations are still keeping people awake at night.

On Water Avenue last week, the piercing security alarm for the Voting Rights Museum sounded for eight hours before it was disabled. On Plant Street, Willie Craig is still woken by car stereos booming through her neighborhood.

Noise Ordinance citations were on the Selma City Council’s agenda Monday night.

“In December,” Councilman Cecil Williamson said, “30 calls were made and only one citation was issued.”

Council president George Evans said the issue needs to handled now.

“These calls are legitimate,” Evans said. “Is there a plan in place that addresses noise and dealing with complaints?”

Councilwoman Bennie Ruth Crenshaw said, “An ordinance. That’s it.”

Police Chief Jimmy Martin said the council inquired about the noise ordinance about eight months ago.

“The council inquired about loud noise,” Martin said. “Can a citizen sign a complaint? A citizen can sign a warrant for a person with loud music. If you feel strongly about it, we will take that complaint and go all the way with it.”

Councilman Johnnie Leashore suggested forming a “Noise Squad.”

“We could put unmarked cars about the city to catch these violators,” Leashore said.

“They know how to turn it down when they see the police,” Councilwoman Jannie Venter said. “If they patrol in unmarked cars, they will be surprised at what they will find.”

Willie’s husband, Thounda Craig said, “You’ve got a right to play music, but not infringe on my rights. People weren’t afraid to march for their rights, but now they’re afraid to stand up to uphold their rights.”

The Craigs, aged 68 and 71, have lived on Plant Street “all our days.”

Both marched on March 7, 1965, Bloody Sunday.

Thounda Craig said, “M.L.K. said anything not worth dying for is not worth living for. Ain’t nothing a man got to fear. It made you want to stand up and be a man. So many sacrifices were made. We put our lives on a limb. These kids being so disrespectful of our neighborhoods and no one willing to do anything about it … it makes you wonder how much of our efforts are being appreciated today.”

Martin said that although a citizen can sign a warrant for a noise violation,

“if a person sees a police car coming, they can turn the noise down and then it’s hard to prove. We patrol all neighborhoods and are good in answering calls.

We’re active in all neighborhoods.”

The Craigs don’t agree.

“We go weeks and weeks without seeing a police officer

They used to have motorcycles and police trucks out and it stayed quiet. When people are not taught respect and courtesy at home, that’s where the law comes in. These people don’t recognize the struggle it was with civil rights, to be first class citizens. You respect rights and neighborhoods.”

Martin, speaking before the city council said, “We get calls behind calls. No excuses; fact. There are 32,000 people that my officers service. Not just each of the wards. If you’ve got a fight call and a loud music call, you put a priority on one of the calls. My senior officers are well-schooled in putting priority on calls.”

Requests by the Selma Times Journal for the number of noise violation calls and citations were not responded to by Chief Martin.

According to the Craigs, politicians from District Attorney Michael Jackson to Council President Evans have spoken with them and been to their home.

“Everyone says they’ll handle it and things will be better and nothing happens,” Mr. Craig said.

He also noted that the police department, when willing to follow up on a license plate called in as a violation, would pass along his name to the offender.

“I don’t think that’s standard operating procedure,” Martin said. “I would have to look into that if that were happening.”

The Craigs have been advised by council members to be quiet themselves or move.

The Craigs say they have tried being quiet about the noise problem.

The result? More noise.