Local police have had crackdowns on drugs, prostitution and other crimes, but now they are attacking a new foe — noise.
The city and Police Department have launched Operation Quiet in an attempt to limit excessive noise in neighborhoods.
"Every year at this time, my office is besieged with complaints from residents about noise throughout the city," Mayor James Fiorentini said. "Our residents deserve peace and quiet. For that reason, the police chief and I are launching Operation Quiet.''
City laws ban excessive noise between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., but the law is often broken during the summer by people playing loud music, lighting off fireworks or rumbling through neighborhoods in cars with loud exhausts.
Police will be using noise meters during those late-night and early-morning hours to measure decibel levels. Anyone with a musical device, car or motorcycle exhaust system, or other source of sound that exceeds 50 decibels during those hours will be subject to a $50 fine. All noise exceeding 70 decibels during other hours will also not be permitted.
"It is a zero-tolerance program," said Officer Paul Malone. "If the meter goes past 70 decibels, we will issue a citation."
He said the noise meters, which are about the size of a cellphone, are not new to the department, but were used sparingly in past summers.
Fiorentini emphasized the city will be handling noise complaints this summer more aggressively than in past years.
"We intend to fine people," the mayor said. "This seems to be the only way to keep neighborhoods safe and quiet. We received numerous complaints about people shooting off illegal fireworks at all hours of the night. We also received numbers of complaints about people with loud noise, of boom boxes music playing until all hours of the evening."
Malone said he has not issued any citations during the rounds he has made. He was unsure how many citations had been issued since the program started last week. The program is intended to last throughout the summer.
Two police officers in an unmarked car will patrol the city each night with noise meters in their car. Malone said police are not targeting any particular neighborhoods, but are doing random rounds of residential areas and responding to noise complaints.
With the Fourth of July approaching, police are also on the watch for illegal fireworks use. Fireworks are illegal in Massachusetts without a permit, but they are easily attainable over the line in New Hampshire, where they are legal.
"In the past, we have simply confiscated the fireworks," said Fiorentini. "This year, we intend to issue fines."
Police ask that residents report excessive noise in neighborhoods by calling the police non-emergency line at (978) 373-1212.