Prague 1 noise meter backfires

Drunken mobs try to see how much noise they can make

The Prague 1 district has been battling noise complaints for years, related mostly to drunken tourists at night. But a recent effort to reduce the noise seems to have just made the matters worse.

The district installed a noise meter at the end of August on a camera column in the plaza where Dlouhá, V Kolkovně, Kozí and Masná streets meet. These streets all have bars that attract tourists.

The idea was that when noise reached 60 decibels the numbers would change from green to red. People would see the red numbers and voluntarily quieten down.

But rather predictably, groups of drunken people have been trying to see how high they can make the meter go. Police lack the resources to respond, and even when they can go there the noisemakers have moved on.

Daily newspaper Metro.cz said one of its readers ever reported two motorcycles having a contest to see which could make the most noise.

When the plan to install noise meters was announced in August, the Municipal Police said they had not been informed. The Municipal Police are responsible for enforcing the noise laws.

“We contacted Prague 1 and asked for an explanation. They told us it was a trial run, and does not concern us yet. Representatives of the city district will discuss further use of the meters after an evaluation of the trial operation,” police spokeswoman Irena Seifertová said at the time.

Prague 1 officials, though, see the plan as useful for both stopping noise and gathering statistics.

“We chose a camera column where streets that have dozens of bars converge. Pub crawls with hundreds of drunken and noisy tourists pass through these streets,” Prague 1 Councilor Ivan Solil (ČSSD), responsible for safety and crime prevention, said, according to Metro.cz.

“People live in the neighboring houses, often with children, and they cannot sleep for long periods due to excessive street noise,” he added.

Despite the new complaints about noise the district plans to install more noise monitors. Solil said residents near Ovocný trh and Betlémské náměstí have expressed interest in noise monitors.

While nobody disputes that there is a problem, the district has long been unable to solve it.

The district has in the past put up signs on poles warning people not to make noise at night in residential areas, but unfortunately, the signs are in rather broken English, which makes them hard to take seriously.

The district last year hired private security guards to enforce noise rules, but these also proved ineffective as they lacked any legal authority, and the patrols’ tactics led to complaints of abuse and bullying. The guards were not renewed after the initial contract ran out.

Setting a closing time for bars on certain streets have also been discussed, but critics say this just shifts the problem to another area. The district has also discussed a complete ban on public drinking.

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