A summer concert at the Stanislaus County Fair in July raised the ire of hundreds of Turlock residents who called in their noise complaints to the Turlock Police Department, only to be told the police department couldn’t do anything about it. It turns out the police department was wrong.
A review that was prompted by the hundreds of complaints revealed that the fairgrounds are actually within the jurisdiction of the city and not the county as has been believed for decades.
“Our response to those calls did not demonstrate the level of customer service that we want to provide and that the community deserves,” said Turlock Police Capt. Steven Williams in presenting the issue to the Turlock City Council on Tuesday.
On July 23 the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds were home to the Summerfest concert, sponsored by an area radio station. Typically concerts at the fairgrounds end around 10 p.m., but this event continued beyond that time. Concerts also are usually within the grounds, which allows for some of the sound to be muffled by the buildings and trees. But this event was set up in the north parking lot, meaning the music wafted out over the city unimpeded.
“There were a significant number of public calls to the emergency dispatch system concerned about the type of noise, the amount of noise and the distance the noise traveled,” Williams said. “There were no less than a couple hundred calls.”
On social media sites residents who stated they lived several miles from the fairgrounds were expressing anger and frustration at being kept up late from the loud music, which included strings of profanity.
One commenter on the Turlock Neighborhood Watch Facebook page stated: “I don’t care if it was one night or one hour the language was HORRIBLE! A concert is one thing, but this concert took it to another level! UNACCEPTABLE! And you had NO choice but to listen to it, due to how loud it was! SO wrong on SO many levels!”
When residents did call the Turlock Police Department to complain about the music they were told the fairgrounds were the county’s jurisdiction, which Williams said was actually a misconception. The fairgrounds were actually incorporated into the city in October 1971, and are subject to the Turlock Municipal Code and the California Penal Code.
“It clears up a whole bunch of mystery for us,” Williams said.
Even with jurisdiction established enforcement of noise issues still poses some complications for the police department.
Williams described the Turlock Municipal Code’s section on noise ordinances as “a comprehensive plan” but “a bit challenging when it comes to enforcement.”
Callers to dispatch were told the event promoters had a permit for the noise level, but when reviewing the incident, Williams said the department learned there was no variance issued that allowed the concert to play music at that volume level and for the extended time.
“It was misinformation and we will ensure it doesn’t happen again,” Williams said.
Going forward events that want to have louder than allowed music will have to apply to the Planning Commission, which will conduct a public hearing on the matter.
Enforcement of the California Penal Code has its own challenges. The code states the disturbance from the loud noise has to be done maliciously and willfully. It also requires someone to be the victim and proceed through a citizen’s arrest and the prosecution from beginning to end.
Williams said the police department has met with Stanislaus County Fair staff and that they are “committed to being good neighbors” and willing to take the steps to keep any future concerts from becoming a nuisance to Turlock residents.