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New York Noise Cops Monitor City Sounds

Inspectors from Bureau of Air Resources respond to complaints and impose fines in the effort to control decibel levels. LOUD NOT ALLOWED

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IT'S pretty quiet on 42nd Street tonight. Car horns mainly, and buses that rumble and belch. Not long ago, working this strip was like shooting fish in a barrel. Every boom-box store and peep show had a loudspeaker blaring out at the sidewalk. A noise inspector could write up 10 violations a night, easy.

The crackdown has had an effect, however. Tonight the street hustlers and movie marquees seem like images on a TV screen with the sound turned down.

Jerry Dimitriou, an inspector for New York City's Bureau of Air Resources, pulls over to the curb anyway. Nothing on the schedule until 9 tonight, so they might as well walk the beat for the while. Sure enough, a boom-box store called California Electronics has a big loudspeaker working just inside the door, to lure some sidewalk traffic. It's pretty tame by previous Times Square standards. But the law says no noise on the sidewalk, period.

Jerry and Dennis O'Conner, his partner, go in and issue the violation. They are both short, even-tempered men who wear zip-up jackets. Tonight their supervisor, Steve O'Connell, is with them to accompany a reporter.

``Give us a break,'' says a man behind the counter at California Electronics. The fine will be at least $440, and he is a little perturbed. ``You need something - a radio - a little later, we take care of you.'' His younger colleague is less inclined to kowtow. ``They have to make their salaries,'' he sneers, as the three men leave.

Another night on the New York City noise patrol. Noise is one of America's most persistent forms of pollution. In New York, it tends to come from music bars and construction sites and rooftop ventilation units. There are thousands of these, and every evening, from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., Jerry and Dennis and one other team cruise the city's five boroughs, trying to keep the decibel level in check. (Thirty-two inspectors work the day shift.)


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