The Mission Viejo City Council passed an ordinance this week that could make the organizers of rowdy and disruptive house parties responsible for the costs of law enforcement personnel dispatched to investigate repeated noise complaints.
"The intent of the ordinance would be to provide another tool for our police officers to use in general to protect public health and safety," said Patricia Kelley, mayor pro tem for Mission Viejo City Council. "I believe that the assessment of fees would provide a deterrent in addition to recovering costs to the city."
Lt. Jeff Hallock, a spokesperson for the Orange County Sheriff's Department, told the L.A. Times that the fines will be determined by the resources needed. "If a sergeant shows up, they'll be charged for their time," Hallock said. "And if a helicopter shows up, they'll be charge for their time."
The Mission Viejo police chief found that for the month of July there were 94 calls for service for loud parties, with 14 of the calls requiring a return visit by a deputy.
"While it's not a huge problem, like raging parties on every street, if you're in one of those 14 neighborhoods that have to have a return visit, it is a problem and it does affect your quality of life," said Kelley.
Critics argue that the ordinance will be difficult to fairly enforce. For one, someone living next to a more sensitive neighbor might get called on more often than someone else.
"This is based on, in my mind, an opportunity for revenue generation without looking at the constitutional rights of the offenders," said Cathy Schlicht, Mission Viejo City Council member. "This does not have definable parameters to what is considered noise, where your rights and my rights begin. How can the law be equally enforced?"
The ordinance is scheduled for a second reading in early September and goes into effect 30 days after. Lake Forest, Newport Beach and San Clemente also have similar laws in place. Should more cities hand out fines to noisy revelers? Would you support such a move?
Patricia Kelley, Mayor Pro Tem, Mission Viejo City Council
Cathy Schlicht, Mission Viejo City Council member