Recently, one of my favorite pastimes has been exploring the laws surrounding noise regulation and the way they’re enforced. I’ve previously written about dealing with neighbors who are partying well into the night and ones that are playing loud music during the day. I’ve even recommended contacting the authorities — but is it possible to lodge an anonymous complaint?
After all, there are plenty of reasons why you may not want your name attached to the complaint. Besides, even in all my research, I haven’t been able to reach a satisfactory conclusion as to the state of U.S. noise regulations. So you may not even have solid ground to stand on in this case.
Still, let’s break down this question point by point. We’ll talk about why you would even want to stay anonymous and whether an anonymous complaint would be the right move for you. But first, let’s discuss if and when you should involve the police in the first place?
When Should You Get the Police Involved?
In the articles I’ve linked to above, I created step-by-step guides to dealing with noisy neighbors. I tried to explain your rights to the best of my ability, but ultimately, I’m now only sure of one thing: our noise regulations aren’t what they ought to be. However, rather than dwelling on which countries are doing it better, I’m choosing to focus on what we can do.
Namely, the first thing you should do if you find yourself having to face a particularly noisy neighbor is educate yourself on local laws. I’ve left plenty of helpful resources in my previous articles on the subject. Basically, that’ll tell you if the police would even be on your side. But before you try to call the police, make sure you’ve done everything else by the book:
- Talk to whoever’s making the noise
- Isolate yourself if possible — soundproof your home or wear noise-canceling headphones
- Get a mediator, like your landlord or an attorney
On the other hand, the person behind the noise could also be behind a wheel. In that case, it would be much harder to report the incident. Still, the chances are high that the police will catch the culprit without your help.
However, if you keep seeing the same car driving by with music spilling out of every window — especially at night — you could record and report the incidents. Take videos, write down the license plates, and try to remember the driver. That will probably help the police deal with the problem.
Why Would You Want to Stay Anonymous?
Needless to say, calling the police should be your absolute last resort. However, if you do end up having to get them involved, why wouldn’t you want to have your name attached to the report? Well, there are a few reasons for it:
- You may not want to cause a problem for whoever is behind the noise. Attaching a name to the complaint would make you the focus, not the noise. Suddenly, you’d be the witness, or worse, the victim of the public disturbance case.
- You don’t want to anger the people who are causing the noise. Whether your relationship is already fraught or not, nothing good can come of them finding out that you’re the one who tattled.
- Lastly, if you give your name to the police when you report the noise, you may be leaving yourself open to further inquiry. If you don’t feel like answering extra questions or being the focus of a police investigation, you may want to keep your name out of it.
However, we’ve yet to answer the question we started out with — so let’s fix that.
So Can You Make an Anonymous Noise Complaint to the Police?
So you’ve decided to report the noise to the police, but you want to keep your identity a secret. Well, as you can imagine, most calls to the police start with introductions. However, the caller can also request to remain anonymous, but I’m not sure that would be the best thing to do in this case.
After all, the officers are going to need all the context they can get. Additionally, if the noise cuts off before the officers get there, you may need to provide proof that it was ever there. You wouldn’t want them to think that you wasted police resources.
Ultimately, it’s best to introduce yourself to the police before stating your case. You can always request that they not mention your name to the people who are making the noise. However, you may need to jump in if the police decide to charge the person with disturbing the peace. If that happens, you may need to act as a witness.
Usually, the question of your identity is only important if you want to lodge a formal complaint. If you want to go through with your report, I have one last piece of advice: don’t call “911.” Instead, take the time to look up the number your local police department uses to take non-urgent complaints. Hopefully, you’ll be able to keep your name off the record.