New equipment helps Colorado Springs investigate noise complaints

Posted at 7:01 PM, Jul 24, 2019

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — How loud is too loud? The City of Colorado Springs Neighborhood Services Department has some new equipment to help them measure the sound volume whenever a resident complains about a noisy neighbor.

Mitch Hammes, the Neighborhood Services Manager, is the man in charge of making sure sure the City's volume knob does get cranked too high.

He said sustained sound that's measured at levels above 55 decibels, or approximately the volume of a refrigerator, can be considered a violation of City Code in residential neighborhoods. In commercial areas, that threshold is 75 decibels, or roughly the sound of vacuum cleaner.

"We do this to preserve the quality of life for all of our residents," Hammes said.

His measurements can potentially be used in court action. So, Hammes uses a very specific set-up. There's the decibel meter which registers the ambient sound level. To control for environmental factors like a gust of wind that could cause a false reading, he also an anemometer (wind gauge) to track wind speeds during his measurements. The readings from both instruments are then recorded for a set period of time with a video camera.

This type of noise investigation is rare.

"In the last 18 months we've had two that have escalated to this level," Hammes said. "So, it's not something that's common."

One of those complaints involved a cryptomining operation located in a commercial zone that also borders a residential neighborhood. Hammes explained that in that situation, the lower of the two decibel thresholds applies.

Noise violations of this type are caused by sustained or continual sound levels that exceed the thresholds listed in the City Code. He encourages people to direct complaints about temporary violations like the noise coming from a loud house party or a barking dog to the police department or animal control for disturbing the peace.

Residents with questions about noise complaints can call Neighborhood Services directly at 719-444-7891, or visit their web site,

Many times, Hammes said noise complaints can sort themselves out when the parties involved talk with each other.

"These are situations where usually people just don't know," he said. "And so, we try to do education on what the City Code requires, we try to come up with reasonable solutions, try to solve problems rather than just swoop in, try to figure out if there's a violation, write a ticket and move on."