The pursuit of happiness is a right all U.S. citizens enjoy, but Salt Lake City leaders just want it enjoyed quietly.
The Salt Lake City Council passed an ordinance Tuesday permitting police officers to assess a $100 service fee against party hosts if police are called to quell loud guests more than once in 24 hours.Police officials call it a means of addressing the growing problem of loud parties in the city.
However, several residents at a public hearing said they are concerned neighbors will use the new law as a harassment tool.
Bob Rose, an Avenues resident in northeast Salt Lake City, holds an upscale, fund-raising party once a year for the Salt Lake Art Center. A live band provides entertainment.
Once a year, an angry neighbor calls police to complain about the party, Rose said. "You do have people who harass you," he told the council.
The ordinance permits police officers to respond to a party, defined as a gathering of three or more people where alcohol is being consumed or where noise in violation of the city's noise ordinance is heard.
If the response is the second in a single day, an officer can assess the host a civil penalty equaling the cost of police having to respond to the call.
The minimum cost of the call - including equipment, injuries sustained on the call and other expenses - is defined in the ordinance as $100, although fees paid early are reduced to $50.
However, Salt Lake Police Maj. O.J. Peck said, "The majority of the special security (assessments) would fall within $50."
The ordinance enables police to respond to parties "if there is probable cause to believe the activities or noise are in violation of the law."
Cary Dunn, a Central City resident, said the ordinance will aggravate neighborhood relations by permitting neighbors to freely harass others. "If we're trying to mitigate a problem . . . we're actually encouraging more problems. We're encouraging more animosity in the neighborhood," Dunn said.
Concerns over the law becoming a harassment tool prompted Councilwoman Sydney Fonnesbeck to ask, "what safeguard is there for someone who is having a quiet party?"
"It's nothing new for police officers to have neighbors who want the police to harass people," Peck said. "We simply have to deal with that."
One Central City resident said he believed the service fee was too low. "I would like to see a fee of $1,000 so people realize what it costs the police," he said.
Mayor Palmer DePaulis, who still must sign the ordinance, said he supports the measure but added he was concerned with possible harassment issues arising from the law.