Quiet-List 1997

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Car Alarms in New Orleans



   From New Orleans Magazine, July 1996, p19(1).

   Here was the scene in the French Quarter on day recently:  It was 
a beautiful day.  There was a nice breeze.  The air was fragrant with 
jasmine and the scent of something cooking.  Then there were the 
sounds: a ship's whistle from the river; the clopping of a mule-drawn 
carriage; a car alarm beeping continuously.

   Something was wrong with this picture.  Isn't it about time to 
draw the line against those annoying car alarms?  The scene shifts to 
a day later in City Park.  The setting was quiet and peaceful, at 
least it was until someone's alarm started its squealing.  The car 
was not an, Infiniti, but that's how long the beeping seemed to last.
   
   Curiously, in neither of these cases was anyone actually trying 
to steal a car.  In both situations the vehicles were on public 
streets heavily trafficked with people.  And in both cases there was 
bright daylight.  No thief in the world would have tried to commit 
car theft in those settings, yet everyone's quiet was violated by a 
meaningless alarm.

   There was another flaw:  In neither case did anyone respond to 
the alarm.  No one takes them seriously -- passers-by, the police -- 
they all know how fickle the alarms are.  A leaping cat or a gentle 
bump can set them off.  One New Year's Eve the vehicles parked along 
an Uptown block greeted the New Year with a discordant symphony as 
the popping of fireworks touched off their alarms.

   If a car is parked in a desolate spot at an odd hour, then maybe, 
just maybe, the alarms might have some value, but those situations 
are comparatively rare.  Most alarm activations are as useless as 
they are annoying.  The auditory landscape is too often trashed by 
scattered electronic beeping.  At least "The Club" works in silence.
 
   Sometimes technology solves problems; other times it creates new 
ones.  That's when the law is needed.  It may be time to regulate 
automobile alarms -- or, if government is to be avoided, to at least 
appeal to the decency of people who have them.  They should be 
reminded that if their car is parked in a public place where there 
are already many people who would potentially be annoyed by their 
alarm, they probably don't need to set the alarm in the first place.
 
   Car theft can be a problem, but so now is the cure.  It has 
created a new group of victims -- the bystanders.  Car alarms 
should be seen for what they really are.  In some situations they 
are a legitimate protective device.  Most often, however, they are 
no more than noise pollution.  We need to reclaim our streets, not 
just from the theives but from the technology.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - end of article - - - - - - - - - - - - -

David Staudacher - quiet@igc.org 
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