In an effort to crack down on noise pollution, the City of Newport is preparing to deploy a first of its kind smart enforcement system that will be capable of identifying and capturing noise violations in real-time.
The system, which pairs the City’s existing traffic camera capabilities with new sound-detecting technology, is intended to help close an enforcement gap encountered by the City’s Police and Zoning officials while responding to suspected noise violations by providing the City with pinpointed real-time data on excessive and potentially harmful decibel levels.
The innovative ‘noise camera’ system underwent extensive field testing over the course of five months earlier this year and is the latest in a series of steps that the City has taken to address what has become one of Newport’s most persistent quality of life issues.
Once installed, the noise camera program will complement other recent initiatives spearheaded by the City including reducing maximum allowable decibel levels; stepped up police patrols throughout the downtown area; and engaging in seasonal and strategic public outreach campaigns.
And while the City has for years dedicated resources to enforce its noise ordinances both during the daytime and overnight hours, proving that a noise violation has taken place has always been a challenge. Once deployed, the noise camera program is expected to supplement those efforts by providing Police with the data that they need in real-time for issuing potential violations and alerting offending motorists of potential violations by flashing warning signs as they drive by.
At the heart of this new approach is an Artificial Intelligence-based software which helps to identify and track where, when and how noise is created.
In addition to identifying in real-time noise violations emanating from specific vehicles such as motorcycles, trucks, and cars with modified exhaust systems, the software is also able to detect audible anomalies which are then projected over an interactive sound map that will allow the City to gain a better understanding of where noise is emanating from, when the noise peaks and ebbs, and how the noise is being created.
And, unlike the use of hand-held manual decibel meters, the digital record produced by the new system is expected to provide police and zoning enforcement officers much better data regardless of lighting, weather and other environmental influences.
With a total of 19,789 cars registered to City residents as of April 2023 and thousands more traveling through Newport’s historic and narrow streets on a daily basis, monitoring for noise violations is a constant and significant task for the City’s Police Department.
Over the course of its 5-month trial period, the City completed over 52,000 vehicle decibel scans, successfully demonstrating a proof of concept that promises to help free up resources that would otherwise be focused on noise abatement.
City Council members including Second Ward Councilor Charlie Holder, Third Ward Councilor David Carlin, and At-Large Councilor Mark Aramli were recently briefed on the project, and are expected to continue to work to refine the City’s noise ordinances with an eye toward reducing the number of noise complaints.
As it’s proposed, this new system is expected to be deployed in the coming weeks in two potential configurations, including Pole Mounted and Mobile units with the latter being added to the City’s existing Police Department traffic control trailer.
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