By: Erin Dyer
Houston’s Woodland Heights resident and homeowner, Lauren Garcia, 30, is fully aware and educated about Houston’s new noise ordinance. When she was arrested on her own property she decided to speak up and warn her fellow Houstonians about how far the Houston Police Department is willing to take this noise ordinance and stretch their power as law enforcers.
Garcia hosted her thirtieth birthday party at her house a few blocks outside of the Houston Heights on June 9. HPD crashed her birthday celebration around 11pm on account of an outdoor DJ playing loud music. After moving the music inside, the cops left only to return to the party about an hour later. Garcia says the cops crashed again, walked into her back yard, searched her house for drugs, and asked her to shut down the party. There were no drugs present on her property, and everyone at the party was of-age. No one was even out of hand or actin’ a fool. When Garcia refused to shut down the party and said they should simply ticket her and leave her property, HPD threw her in cuffs. While still handcuffed, she was escorted inside by an officer and ordered to inform her family, friends, and coworkers that they had to leave the premises, leaving Garcia feeling embarrassed and degraded. The cops told her they were only cuffing her for the purpose of intimidating the other party guests in hopes that they would begin to leave Garcia’s house.
Despite what they said about cuffing her for intimidation purposes, the officers soon proceeded to walk her to the cop car and put her in the back seat, claiming they were only going to keep her there until the party cleared out. Then the officers called their HPD sergeant and asked him if there were any charges on which they could arrest Garcia. After looking at her history and seeing multiple alcohol-related charges, she was taken into custody for intoxication, though she was on her own property and was administered neither a breathalyzer nor a sobriety test. Whether Garcia was indeed intoxicated or not…since when is it illegal to get wastey facey on your own property, anyways? Because most noise ordinance cases are dismissed, Garcia claims that they were trying to find any reason under the sun to arrest her, and intoxication was the easiest way out.
Garcia was taken to jail on the night of her birthday party and spent the night in the slammer until she was released at 1pm on Sunday, the next day. When her charges were presented in court that day, Garcia says the judge looked at the police report and laughed at the charges. Although she was originally taken into custody on behalf of intoxication, she was officially charged with two different, unrelated violations: violation of noise ordinance, and making noise known by sound and vibration. What the..?
Section 30-6(1) of Houston’s new noise ordinance states the maximum permissible sound level at a residential property may not exceed .58 dB(A) during nighttime hours. However, because the new ordinance does not require officers to use an official decibel meter to determine the sound level, it is left up to their own discretion (Yeah…because that makes sense.) Garcia is upset about the whole situation and thinks HPD took the noise ordinance way too far. As a Houstonian and a former DJ herself, she wants to voice her opinion on the noise ordinance.
This is one of countless examples and personal testimonies that show the unjust nature of Houston’s new sound ordinance. It seems that HPD needs another excuse on which to exert their power as law officials, and the noise ordinance presents a perfect opportunity for them to keep Houstonians on their toes, and maybe even push them around a little.