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Pilot program looking to nab noisy drivers underway in Kirkland

The results of the pilot program will be sent to the state Legislature so lawmakers can vote on whether or not the technology will be allowed.

KIRKLAND, Wash. — Speed and red light cameras are common across western Washington. Now, new technology could be on the way to nab cars, trucks and motorcycles that make too much noise.

Kirkland is the first city in the state to deploy a six-month pilot program that will capture sound and video at specific intersections and analyze the clips to determine whether they violate state noise laws.

Kirkland Police Chief Cherie Harris said as it stands now, enforcing vehicle noise laws is nearly impossible.

"The problem is officers having the time to do that and all that it would really take to do enforcement," she said. "This is targeted at drivers who are creating noise on purpose."

Two locations that will see the devices in Kirkland are Central Way at 6th Street and Lake Washington Blvd at 59th near Houghton Beach Park. The Houghton Beach location is already operational.

That's where Dan Japhet walks his dog, Briggs, every day. He hears the racket as traffic howls by.

"The motorcycles are the worst," he said. "I don't get it. They must really like the sound of those motorcycles. I sure don't."

Kirkland police say complaints about noisy, speeding vehicles have more than tripled since last year.

"It's a deterrent to happy living in Kirkland," said Chief Harris.

Kirkland is trying to avoid the noise and chaos that have occurred in parts of King and Pierce counties in recent years when hundreds have gathered to watch street racing, leading to injury and burnt vehicles.

"We don't want Kirkland to become a place where street racers will feel comfortable," said Harris. "We have had street racing incidents that have occurred here. Vehicles are coming in full of people who actually take over streets. It's a fairly dangerous situation. I certainly hope they will avoid this city."

The city paid the company Cithaeron $15,000 to complete the study.

The technology is similar to how school zone cameras capture speeders, except along with video, microphones are used, as well.

"Each microphone is operating independently to capture sound from a vehicle. Then it's fed back through an algorithm that determines the distance and aggregate sound pressure for the vehicle," explained Cithaeron CEO Sol Keiter.

A ticket would then be issued to the registered owner of the vehicle.

In a video posted to the city's YouTube page, purple dots show the "noise" from a pickup truck registering 100 decibels. That's the same level as a jackhammer.

However, some are already expressing concern over the technology.

While unable to comment on this particular project, Jennifer Lee, technology and liberty project manager at the ACLU of Washington said, "We do have serious concerns about expanding camera surveillance networks that automate law enforcement. These systems may not actually solve the problem they were intended to solve while creating new and bigger problems through overbroad data collection and mass surveillance, which can chill freedom of movement, speech, religion, association, and assembly. The city and the state should protect the privacy of its residents and visitors.”

No tickets or warnings will be issued during the pilot program and no personal information is being shared with police, according to Keiter.

"This is only a feasibility study," said Chief Harris.

The results of the study will be sent to lawmakers in Olympia next June where they will determine whether to pass a law to allow the devices to be rolled out.

The legal decibel level allowed is still to be determined.

For Japhet and Briggs, they just want some peace on their walks.

"I just don't believe that kind of noise should be tolerated," Japhet said.

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