There is no overnight noise complaint enforcement in Hamilton


Published February 28, 2023 at 4:05 pm

hamilton police

Hamilton residents may be getting a rude awakening about having limited ways to quickly mute their noisy, nocturnal neighbours.

City of Hamilton bylaw made it publicly known at a council meeting in December that the Hamilton Police (HPS) and the municipal law enforcement (MLE) officers have dismantled the “noise enforcement team.” Since 2015, it has responded to noise complaints made between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. Since Jan. 1, HPS are only responding to overnight noise complaints where there is a public safety issue.

The change gained wider attention through a Reddit thread at r/Hamilton that has elicited more than 160 comments, and has since filtered up to local legacy media portals. The city’s elected leadership learned of the change on Dec. 5, but it is unclear how that was communicated to residents. The police had told MLE that it needed to move officers to other duties in order to counter severe crime in the city.

The new complaint curfew, so to speak, is 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings only, until the end of April. From May to September, it is expanded to include Thursday nights.

“HPS has advised MLE of their ongoing staffing challenges, and as such, HPS is redeploying officers to the frontline to manage the increased demand for service,” reads the Dec. 5 report from licensing and bylaw services director Monica Ciriello.

The report noted most calls after 1 a.m. “required police involvement.” A consultation report prepared 15 years also suggested MLE officers should not work past that time of night.

“It was recommended that Municipal Law Enforcement Officers’ hours of operation should not exceed 1:00 a.m. due to safety reasons, as it was found that the majority of noise calls beyond this time required police involvement. As such, MLE officers do not work past 1:00 a.m. unless part of a special project or in joint enforcement with HPS.”

Hamilton is one of the only major cities in Canada that does not have a 311 special phone number for accessing non-emergency municipal services.

The city has two numbers where noise complaints can be reported (905-546-2489 or 905-546-2782 opt. 2). The report from December also said complaints outside of MLE’s scheduled daytime (8:30-4:30 on weekdays) and Friday/Saturday evening shifts can be called into the HPS non-emergency line (905-546-4925).

However, “response times will be set by the HPS Priority Response System.” The police will respond to a noise complaint when there are:

  • Extenuating circumstances
  • A public safety issue
  • Or if  an MLE officer requires assistance

The report offered month-by-month statistics showing police and bylaw jointly responded to 935 noise complaints in 2022. September (136), May (130) and June (126) were the noisiest months. But 53 tickets were issued, which works out to $5,300 in municipal revenue since the ticket is only $100.

The change has hit the news while city council debates whether to approve a $12-million increase to the HPS budget. The police budget accounts for 18 per cent of the city’s expenditures. However, 92 cents of every dollar that HPS spends is on employee costs.

The city is also facing a likely above-inflationary 6.7-per-cent municipal tax increase when it finalizes its tax-supported operating budget. That is due to be finalized in March. The tax increase is above Canada’s national inflation rate, which settled at 5.9% at the end of January.

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