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Gainesville Police Department says noise is the No. 1 complaint

Brooke Benson and her husband, Robert Benson, welcomed a new addition to their family four months ago, a baby boy.

The 24-year-old preschool teacher expected motherhood to be hectic and unpredictable. But she never imagined that every babble her baby would make would be drowned out by the sound of gunshots, screaming matches and slamming doors blaring from the apartment next door.

After contacting the Gainesville Police Department on three separate occasions, the couple decided not to bother anymore.

“Every single time, I am told the exact same thing,” she said. “‘OK ma’am. We will send someone to check it out.’ But it never happens.”

Gainesville has a sound ordinance with quiet hours between 10 p.m. to 8 a.m., meaning you are not permitted to disrupt the peace of any reasonable person during this time. In the last month, GPD received 360 noise complaints. An officer was dispatched to 253.

Although there is a sound ordinance, Brooke Benson said it is nearly impossible to get the police to enforce it.

Lt. Lisa Scott said the department responds to all the noise complaints where there is possible criminal activity such as an open house party or underage drinking. However, calls are responded to based on priority.

“A noise complaint is probably a priority four,” she said. “A priority one is something more serious like a traffic crash with injuries or a robbery.”

Scott said a noise ordinance is important because residents make it important.

“We go to so many crime watch meetings,” she said. “The No. 1 complaint will be noise.”

Gyse Cruz, a 28-year-old emergency medical services worker, has had issues with her upstairs neighbors for over a year.

She said the college students blast music and move heavy furniture every morning at 1 a.m.

“It is always when I am trying to sleep that my walls start shaking,” she said. “I have to wake up at 4 a.m. every morning for work.”

After contacting her Homeowners Association on three separate occasions, the students were given multiple warnings.

“I’ve explained as politely as possible that this is not a college neighborhood,” she said. “We don’t do parties. We don’t play loud music at 1 a.m. I have to bang on the ceiling every morning because it is 3 a.m. and my walls are shaking.”

In March, Cruz explained to her neighbors that if they did not turn their music down she would call the police. The noise continued. She called GPD and waited 30 minutes for an officer to arrive.

The officer said she could hear the music as she was pulling into the neighborhood, so she gave the students a verbal warning. The music resumed once the officer left.

“I called [GPD] twice after,” Cruz said. “Once they basically told me nothing could be done. No one came the second time. A warning when you can hear music from the front of the neighborhood is ridiculous. Also, they ignored the underage drinking.”

The week after she contacted GPD, there were used condoms and trash dumped on Cruz’s patio. Then, her car was broken into.

Capt. Robert Fanelli advises anyone who is having a noise-related issue to contact GPD, provide their name, contact information and be as specific as possible. He said myGNV, a mobile app available on iOS and Google Play used to report non-emergency issues, should be used to submit a complaint.

Nicholas Anthony, a 22-year-old University of Florida junior majoring in criminology, and his girlfriend Mary Fernanda, a 22-year-old University of Florida senior majoring in hospitality, tourism and event management, moved into their first home together in August 2022.

The first three months were blissful. Then December came and two 19-year-old girls moved into the house next door. The two would throw “indescribably loud” parties every Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

“The noise let alone was a problem,” Anthony said. “But, on top of that, cars would screech their tires when they would come in and out of the neighborhood.”

Watch below: Nicholas Anthony, 22, of Gainesville, describes how he tried to find a solution to his neighborly noise problem.

The couple was reluctant to call the police because they assumed that once the police had left the party would wind back up. They were also worried confronting their neighbors would put a target on their backs.

“People are crazy,” Fernanda said. “A woman in our neighborhood told me she called GPD on her neighbor two years ago, and the next day two officers showed up at her door because someone filed a complaint that the woman’s husband was abusing her and their 6-month-old daughter. Which was not true.”

However, after one month, the couple could not take it anymore.

“We’re college students,” Anthony said. “We both work 20 hours a week, so when the weekend comes, we use that time to catch up on sleep and homework.”

They used myGNV to file a complaint. The next day, an officer contacted them, and the couple explained the situation. One week later, the girls went around the neighborhood and apologized to their neighbors.

Scott says the department relies on community input to determine what is reasonable for everyone.

“Right now, it is 200 feet if not on a roadway,” she said. “That may be a little bit too loud for some.”

Scott said an overall conversation, being respectful of others and understanding what is reasonable are the three key factors to consider when creating a successful noise ordinance. She believes less restrictive violations would be beneficial.

“We hear our neighbors,” she said. “We are doing our best to enforce this. What is important to our citizens is important to us.”

Sarah is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.