Sounding Off: Noise not worth assumed lower crime rates

Daily Pilot

This is in response to Joseph Serna's article about proposed cuts to the Airborne Law Enforcement (ABLE) shared police helicopter program ("Chief: No more cuts," May 14).

A few less hours of routine patrol flight time over my neighborhood would be fine with me. Don't get me wrong. I love law and order, especially in my neighborhood. However, I am not willing to pay any price for it. I am not talking about money; I am talking about noise pollution. Law enforcement is one of the few things for which I would gladly pay more taxes. I would just prefer that the money be spent on something quieter.

I have spoken with Costa Mesa Police Sgt. Tim Starn a few times because I have done my fair share of complaining about his noisy helicopter. I think Starn is a nice guy, and I don't doubt his sincerity when he cites all the positive factors in favor of the ABLE program. He is fond of saying that the Eurocopter EC120 is one of the quietest helicopters available on the market. Yet it is still a helicopter, and it doesn't sound very quiet to me.

I refer to it as a flying jackhammer and others, including police officers, call it the "ghetto bird."

I didn't know I lived in a ghetto. My property taxes are a little high for ghetto property. I have lived and worked on the Balboa Peninsula for 22 years, and I know that I am living in the wrong place if I expect peace and quiet all the time.

I used to look forward to the end of summer, knowing that we were about to enjoy plenty of sunny, warm days without the crowds and noise of summer.

Those days are gone as the Eagle police helicopter patrols Newport-Mesa 3,000 hours per year, according to the article.

I can't remember the last time I was able to enjoy a quiet Sunday afternoon in my backyard without window-rattling multiple passes of the "whap, whap, whap" of Eagle One on a routine patrol.

Starn states that "crime will definitely go up" if flight time is cut. Really? Is there any actual evidence to support that statement?

I never hear anyone cite actual crime statistics that have been correlated to hours of ABLE flight time. I can't cite any statistics to the contrary, but I have my own experience.

Over the last 22 years, I haven't noticed much of a change in the amount or type of crime on the peninsula. I read the police blotters and try to stay informed.

The crime has always seemed to be mostly of the public nuisance variety — hardly ever that which would demand air support.

If Starn had knocked on my door and offered me a guaranteed 10% or 20% decrease in my chances of being the victim of a crime in exchange for running a jack hammer out in front of my house a few times a day, every day, I would have said, "No thanks. That is a price I am not willing to pay. Find a more quiet alternative crime deterrent like an extra patrol car."

However, I don't remember being asked that question. It is a question I wish my City Council would consider.

If the majority of my neighbors are in favor of the current level of helicopter patrol, fine by me — majority rules.

In my conversations with them, however, I haven't met many other than those employed by the Newport Beach Police Department.

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