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City of Knoxville considering new technology to help enforce city noise ordinance

Similar to red light cameras, "noise cameras" capture photos and videos of vehicles exceeding the noise level limit.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Some people living in downtown Knoxville said they are fed up with overly noisy vehicles rumbling through the streets. The noise they're referring to isn't the typical hustle and bustle of downtown living. 

It's vehicles that City of Knoxville officials said are in violation of state law and the city noise ordinance. "Cities are always noisy, always have been. But this is different. This is deliberate," said City of Knoxville Downtown Coordinator Rick Emmett.

"There are several that seem to come down here a lot that have systems that sound like guns firing," explained downtown resident Kim Henry.

Many of the cars, trucks and motorcycles in question have modified exhausts and loud sound systems.

Henry said the noise makes working from home or even having a conversation over a meal sometimes impossible.

In October of 2020, the presidents of 17 downtown Home Owners Associations wrote a letter to Mayor Indya Kincannon requesting Knoxville Police to enforce the city's noise ordinance.

"I think it's important for folks to understand that folks live and work down here and that if you're being disruptive, it's no different than someone coming to your workplace or your home and doing the same thing right outside your door," said Gerald Witt, HOA president for the 300 building.

One solution the city will be putting to the test is installing so-called "noise cameras" on a trial run basis.

Similar to red light cameras, the devices capture photos and videos of vehicles exceeding the limit. But instead of tracking speed, they track noise levels.

City officials said it's too early to know when or for long the trial will take place.

For now, residents like Henry, who has lived downtown for nearly two decades, are waiting for a solution that would curb the noise while keeping downtown vibrant.

"How do we deal with this without running people away from downtown?" she asked.

The fine for violating the noise ordinance is $50.

Officials ask people to report vehicles that are in violation, including a license plate number, to 311.