Q: I live in the front unit of an apartment complex. This morning I had a very important presentation to give my supervisors and I was unable to get any sleep last night due to a car alarm. The car was parked on the street outside of my bedroom window and the alarm activated every hour with various sounds throughout the night. I feel this happens frequently in my area and negatively impacts my quality of life. Is there anything I can do?

A: Yes, there is something that can be done. Let’s first take a look at what a car alarm is. A car alarm is an electronic device designed to deter vehicle theft. Car alarms sound off when the vehicle sensor detects a vibration, movement, contact or noise. In most cases, a passing vehicle or other external vibration will set off an alarm. Some vehicles use audible status indicators that make noise whenever there is any vibration or sound outside of the vehicle.

Auto thieves may trip the car alarm to mask the sound of breaking glass. Thieves can disable an alarm in seconds. Because they are so common today, people generally do not respond to car alarms, which reduce the benefit of announcing a possible auto theft in progress.

Better known in the industry as “nuisance alarms,” car alarms seriously affect millions of people every day. The noise pollution from car alarms disrupts sleep patterns, productivity and daily life. Car alarms are known to disrupt weddings, funerals and other important moments. Many alarms are activated by accident, sensitive alarm settings, or carelessness and not as the result of any criminal activity. It is agreed that the noise from motor vehicle alarms is contrary to public health, safety, and welfare of the community.

Santa Monica Municipal Code 3.60.010 states: No person shall cause, allow, permit or suffer any alarm located in a motor vehicle registered in the name of or operated by such person to emit any audible sound in the city of Santa Monica for a period of more than 15 minutes. The time shall be calculated based upon the emission of the first audible sound and ending 15 minutes thereafter, notwithstanding any variation or delay in the emissions of audible sound. Any person violating this section shall be guilty of an infraction. Any person convicted of an infraction under this section shall be punishable by a fine of not more than $33. Any person violating this section who has been previously convicted of three or more violations of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. The Santa Monica Police Department, in order to abate the public nuisance created by a vehicle in violation of this section, may take such steps as are reasonably necessary to enter the vehicle, disconnect the alarm, and remove the vehicle for safekeeping in the manner permitted by law.

Additionally, the law regarding loud vehicle theft alarm systems is contained in the California Vehicle Code, Section 22651.5(a) which states in part that a police officer, traffic services officer, or community service officer may, upon complaint, remove a vehicle if the vehicle theft alarm system has been activated for 20 minutes upon the officer’s arrival, and the alarm has not silenced within that time.

If you do hear an alarm, take the time to look out your window, since you never know if a car is, in fact, being broken into. Neighborhood awareness help the police watch over their community and it can make a significant impact on reducing crime. If the car alarm has been sounding for an unreasonable amount of time, please feel free to call the police department at (310) 458-8495. Someone will respond and deal with the car alarm accordingly.

Q: My wife and I are going out of town for the weekend and leaving our teenage son at home alone for the first time. We are worried he might take advantage of our absence and throw a party for his friends. Do you have any tips for us that might help us prevent a party from occurring?

A: When you go out of town, the word gets out quickly! It only takes about 10 seconds for information to spread around a school (at least is seems like that’s all it takes). How do keep your house from becoming a party house while you are gone? First of all, it is important to realize that situations can quickly get out of hand even for the most responsible teenager. Many times a small select group of close friends turns into a large, out-of-control bash. When groups of friends show up, how many teenagers are going to be able to refuse to let them in? A little later, alcohol gets brought in and now you have the makings of a lot of trouble!

Have a sit-down with your son and explain the house rules. Make sure he knows explicitly that parties are not allowed. If you still want to be sure, invite a responsible adult to stay with your son while you are away. Also, inform your neighbors about your absence and ask them to contact you, the adult living in your house, or the Santa Monica Police Department at (310) 458-8491 if they see a party starting. Above all, talk to your son and make sure he understands his responsibility and the trust you are giving him.

This column was prepared by NRO Scott McGee (Beat 5: Montana Avenue to north city limits, Ocean Avenue to 26th Street). He can be reached at (424) 200-0685 or scott.mcgee@smgov.net.

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