At what point do police consider a citizen’s complaints against someone else a nuisance or harassment?
Sunnyside police since the beginning of this year have received 28 noise complaints, including one during the National Night Out celebration last week, from Dr. James Stevens. All of his calls have referenced loud noise, or music, emanating from United Methodist Church, located at the corner of East Edison Avenue and South Ninth Street.
Stevens’ office is next to the church.
Police Commander Scott Bailey said the complaints do not qualify as harassment.
“I have to have a victim to tell me he crossed the line,” said Bailey.
He said Sunnyside police have informed Stevens that they will not investigate every call. However, officials do document the calls.
Bailey said Stevens is trying to be an alert neighbor. Stevens is in charge of a local block watch and is committed to safe neighborhoods.
“The block watch is well-intended…(but) it appears there needs to be some redirection,” said Bailey.
In dealing with calls related to the music at the church, he said police have determined the church is constitutionally protected. Bailey said the music is a form of worship.
“It doesn’t constitute a form of crime,” said Bailey.
He said the department, in documenting Stevens’ calls but not always sending officers to the church, is not using up valuable resources.
Bailey said officers can continue patrols, providing security to the community at-large.
“Rather than being hemmed up in one area of town, officers can continue their work,” he said.
“We have informed Dr. Stevens how we will handle these calls,” said Bailey.
Since 2010 there have been approximately 40 calls directly related to activity at the United Methodist Church. Bailey said 28 of those calls were made this year.
He acknowledged the potential exists that a member of the church could complain they feel threatened, intimidated or harassed.
“If so, police would need to look into the matter,” said Bailey.
He said the victim would need to file a complaint for that to happen.
“We wish we could find common ground,” said Bailey, noting members of the church have made efforts to that end.
Those efforts, he said, have only gotten to the point that the parties involved have “agreed to disagree.”
Bailey said officers also do not wish to discourage a citizen from calling police.
He said, “We’re here to provide services, ensuring the safety and welfare of the people.
“(But) there are a limited number of officers serving a community of approximately 17,000 people.”