Longmont to explore sound-camera technology; no tickets would be issued during trial run

The Longmont Department of Public Safety will use sound-camera technology over the course of a four-week trial period to get a handle on excessive automobile noise throughout the city, but on Main Street in particular.

“It literally works just like a speed camera or a red-light camera,” Longmont Master Police Officer David Kennedy said Wednesday. “The only difference is that this device is measuring sound.”

When a vehicle’s engine, stereo or exhaust system exceeds a certain decibel level, the speed camera will record a short video — with audio — of the offender’s license plate, which can then be used to issue a citation in the mail.

Kennedy said the sound-cameras can determine which vehicle is making the unreasonably loud noise even if multiple cars and trucks are on the roadway at the time.

In Longmont, the allowable decibel-level threshold depends upon the time of day and the area of the city’s zoning, whether it be residential, commercial or industrial. However, enforcement has been difficult, if not impossible, given the city’s lack of sound-measuring devices.

After reading about the emergence of sound cameras in other cities across the U.S. and Europe, public safety officials contacted a company called 24 Acoustics, which is based in United Kingdom, to bring the technology to Longmont.

In the coming weeks, 24 Acoustics will send Longmont Public Safety one sound camera to deploy at different locations throughout the city.

The trial run will cost about $1,500, and Kennedy emphasized how during the four-week period no tickets would be issued. Instead, the department hopes to gather as much data related to noise violations as possible and gauge whether the program would even be feasible in Longmont.

“Council, just to be clear, has not committed to these cameras,” Kennedy said. “The only thing they authorized us to do was to test one of the cameras from the company.”

It’s unclear where Public Safety intends to test the sound-camera technology other than at multiple locations throughout the city.

It’s also unclear how much a citation for excessive-noise would cost.

“The problem we have is we would be the first city in Colorado and the first city that I know of … on the west side of the United States to try this technology out,” Longmont Public Safety Chief Zach Ardis said during the Tuesday’s City Council meeting in response to a question about a citation’s cost.

The sound cameras would operate 24/7 and allow officers the ability to focus on higher-priority calls as opposed to excessive-noise violations.

Should council ultimately approve the devices, each camera would cost about $31,000 to purchase plus maintenance fees.

“Something is better than nothing,” Mayor Pro Tem Aren Rodriguez said during Tuesday’s meeting. “I’m very enthusiastic about the possibility of … these cameras.”

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