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August 08, 2023

N.J. increases penalties for 'boom parties,' cars playing loud music

Fines will be issued when noise is 'plainly audible' 50 feet away. Philly has passed a similar measure that awaits Mayor Kenney's signature

Government Legislation
New Jersey Boom Parties Robert Scheer/IndyStar

New Jersey has increased penalties for 'boom parties,' or gatherings involving a vehicle with massive speakers blasting music that can be heard for miles. Above is a file photo of a car's stereo system in Indianapolis.

For years, Philly and South Jersey residents have complained about "boom parties" and "boom cars," or when vehicles with massive stereo systems blast music that can be heard for miles, often well into the night. 

Communities on both sides of the Delaware River have called on local governments to intervene and stop the noise that keeps people awake. Sen. Nick Scutari, who is serving as the acting governor of New Jersey, approved a bill on Monday that increases penalties for those taking part in the noisy gatherings.

The law sets a statewide standard for noise violations, with any vehicle operator that blasts music so that it's "plainly audible" from 50 feet away being subject to a fine. While the original bill, introduced last fall, proposed that vehicles be confiscated by law enforcement, operators will instead be issued fines that increase with each subsequent violation, officials said. 

Law enforcement officers can now issue a $250 to $500 fine for a first offense, followed by a $500 to $750 fine for a second offense and $750 to $1,000 for third and subsequent offenses. A third offense would also take two motor vehicle points off of a violator's driving record. 

"The noise from these boom parties can be an assault on the quality of life in residential communities at all hours of the day and night," said Scutari. "This law sets reasonable standards that allow local enforcement officials to limit the volume of music emanating from motor vehicles." 

South Jersey residents in Camden, Burlington, Salem and Gloucester counties have complained for years about boom parties across the river in Philly disturbing their sleep and, in some cases, causing vibrations that shake their homes, reported. The growing frustration led to a community meeting in Palmyra earlier this year, with representatives from Philly's 15th police district in attendance. 

In a statement posted on the Cinnaminson Township Police Department's Facebook page in April, Police Chief Rich Calabrese said that he wanted to hold Philly police accountable for the noise coming from boom parties across the river, urging people to keep the noise down between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. 

The complaints are not just about boom parties in Philly. Last year, officials in Staten Island complained about hearing boom parties from across the river in Elizabeth, Union County, claiming that the noise from New Jersey was impacting Staten Island residents' quality of life, SI Live reported. 

"It's no secret that 'boom car' parties have negatively affected the quality of life in towns up and down the Delaware River for years," said Sen. Troy Singleton, a Democrat from Burlington County. "Residents, even those miles away from the Delaware River, can feel the bass vibrating their homes, which torturously keeps them awake all night long. This law sends a clear message that this will not be tolerated in our state, and there will be real consequences for their actions." 

Philly has its own noise ordinance, which includes quiet hours between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. Police can issue fines between $100 and $300 for a first offense and $500 or more for subsequent offenses. But as complaints have grown, officials have considered enacting stiffer penalties. In May, Councilmember Mike Driscoll, who represents part of the River Wards and Northeast Philly, introduced a bill that would impose $2,000 fines on operators of "nuisance vehicles" and allow police to confiscate cars. 

In Driscoll's bill, a nuisance vehicle is defined as any car playing music that can be heard more than 100 feet away unless included as part of a city-sanctioned event. If a person's car is taken, they would have eight days to dispute the violation or pay the fine before the vehicle is permanently forfeited to the city. 

"Residents along the river have endured the excessive noise long enough, at all hours of the day and night," Driscoll told the Inquirer. "We need to take strict enforcement measures and signal that we're not going to tolerate it anymore." 

Driscoll's bill was approved by City Council in June and was sent to Mayor Jim Kenney's desk for his signature, though it has yet to be signed.