Groton Police Chief Says Mystic’s Parking Issues Contribute to Noise Problem

Groton Police Chief Louis Fusaro and Sgt. Richard Sawyer spoke to the Groton Town Council about solutions to noise, parking and traffic issues in Mystic on July 25, 2023. (Groton Public Television)


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GROTON — In response to ongoing noise complaints in downtown Mystic, Groton Police Chief Louis Fusaro recommended the Town Council beef up parking regulations and rely on community policing and existing statutes, rather than enact a noise ordinance.

“There’s a parking problem in Mystic. We know that, we’ve known that for years. We’ve got to do something to address it because I think it creates cascading effects. … It does create problems with noise. It does create additional traffic, it does create congestion, and those all factor into one another,” Fusaro told the council at Tuesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting. 

Councilor David McBride said because many residents complained about excessive noise, he had asked that the council revisit a noise ordinance it drafted in 2018, which relied on the police measuring decibel levels. 

“I brought it forward to have some discussion at the council level, discussion with yourself and your officers, to find out what if anything could be done to move a noise ordinance forward for the betterment of the community,” McBride said to Fusaro, who was accompanied by Sgt. Richard Sawyer at the meeting.

Fusaro said he had spoken against the 2018 proposal at the time and his position hadn’t changed. 

An ordinance that included decibel testing would be expensive in terms of buying equipment, training and certifying police on the instruments, and maintaining and calibrating the equipment, he explained. Additionally, officers would need to go to court after issuing a citation, entailing overtime costs. 

Enforcing a noise ordinance would also take officers away from other tasks like DUI enforcement, he said, as well as possibly place the department in a difficult position in neighbor-to-neighbor disputes. 

Regarding noise issues, Fusaro said his police force uses the breach of peace or public disturbance statutes, which is a state infraction and can be issued “like a traffic ticket” as enforcement. Persistent, repeat offenses could result in a breach of peace or disorderly conduct misdemeanor.

However, he said his department’s data showed that noise complaints were decreasing in the downtown Mystic area. By this time last year, the department had 84 noise complaints, compared to 70 this year. 

“So the numbers show some of the things that we’re doing have worked,” Fusaro said.

Sawyer said an important part of community policing was building relationships rather than escalating confrontations and immediately writing infractions. 

“Our job is not to punish people. Our job is to enforce the law and to make our streets safer and make the community a better place to live,” he said. “Our first directive or our first mission is to go out there and create a dialogue, de-escalate and just see if we can work together on something like that. And that usually, most of the time works.”

Councilor Rachael Franco asked whether police could enforce noise limitations outlined in zoning regulations, including times that businesses need to shut off music. But Fusaro said the town’s zoning enforcement officer enforces those rules, which are not criminal violations. 

“So if there’s a zoning regulation that says you have to close your deck by 10 p.m. or you have to turn off the band at 10 p.m., we don’t enforce that, there’s no mechanism,” he said. “We do work with zoning officials and many times they’ll accompany us on calls, but we don’t have the authority to enforce zoning regulations.”  

Fusaro said police frequently get noise complaints about nearby businesses, increased traffic, speeding and parking, and encouraged the council to examine the root causes of the problems. 

“There are things we can do to help, but there’s no easy fix, and there’s no easy fix that is just exclusive to the police department. There’s a lot of other components to it. There’s some strategies that I would like to see happen that I think would be beneficial, but those are not within my purview as police chief, things you might want to consider.” 

He said the Mystic Parking Study showed that the primary violators of parking regulations were employees of downtown businesses. 

“That’s what’s creating some of these cascading effects. When there’s a person that works at an establishment that’s there eight hours, that’s a parking space that doesn’t ever turn over and it creates other effects,” he said. 

Visitors create traffic congestion while looking for parking spaces, he said, and eventually drive to the outer streets, where police are now receiving complaints about speeding. 

Town Manager John Burt said the current $20 parking violation fine needs to be increased, and there were no “real repercussions” if the fine was not paid.

“We’ve got our attorneys looking at what are our options to beef this up to get better compliance,” Burt told the council.

Fusaro said there must be consequences for parking violations and was in favor of a paid parking system in downtown Mystic.

“The general consensus among the police department is that it would be helpful. It’s not an all-in-one solution, but it would be helpful,” he said. 

Mayor Juan Melendez noted there was little council support for the noise ordinance, and the group took no further action.