Police decibel patrol nails snorer as a 3-time snoozer

February 15, 1994|By McClatchy News Service

DAVIS, Calif. -- You snooze, you lose.

If you live in Davis, that is.

That is the reality that a 30-year-old Davis woman awoke in the early morning hours of Jan. 31, when Davis police cited her for "audible snoring," an infraction that could cost her as much as a $50 fine in Yolo County Traffic Court.

The woman, who has asked that her name not be publicized and who admits to being a heavy snorer, lives in a Davis duplex with her husband and two children.

And unfortunately for her, she shares a wall with her neighbor that is so thin it has resulted in a long-standing problem.

Davis Police Chief Phil Coleman said a city officer had responded to the neighbor's complaint twice before and there was a belief that a compromise had been struck: She would place mattresses along the common wall.

But on the third occasion, the neighbor was insistent, and as he is legally entitled, demanded that a police community service officer cite her for violation of section 16820 of the civil code.

Davis has one of the strictest no-smoking ordinances in the state, has recently banned skateboarding in its downtown area, is a nuclear-free zone and is a declared sanctuary for refugee Sandinistas. It also has a very strict anti-noise ordinance.

The city, which is also home to some noisy University of California, Davis, fraternities, takes its anti-noise ordinance seriously, Chief Coleman said yesterday.

"We have noise enforcement officers trained to investigate complaints and they even have noise meters," Chief Coleman said. "The ordinance has decibel-level standards, but it also has a proviso that makes it a violation of the noise standards of the complainant."

The proviso notes that "it shall be unlawful for any person to willfully make or continue, or cause to be made or continued, any noise which unreasonably disturbs the peace and quiet of any neighborhood or which causes discomfort or annoyance to any reasonable person of normal sensitivity residing in the area."

The accused was not impressed with the city's vigorous enforcement and let Mayor Lois Wolk know about it.

"I would like to point out that snoring is considered a normal bodily function," she wrote. "It is not done on purpose or with any malice toward any person."

Mr. Wolk, who has suffered through the few extremes that have tainted Davis' reputation as an otherwise pleasant and innovative community, sighed again yesterday when asked about the incident.

"The ordinance says 'willfully' . . . that's the key word," Mr. Wolk said. "This person should never have been cited.

"Government's role is not in the bedroom, not in listening through walls or dealing with snoring."

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