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Noise Violation Gone Bad

*All names have been changed to protect the identities of the participants.

The Community Conferencing Center receives referrals from The Baltimore City Police, Department of Juvenile Services, Maryland State’s Attorney’s Office, Schools, School Police, and Neighborhood Associations.  Never has a request for a Community Conference been made by the actual person who was arrested…until now.

Loud Music

A young mother by the name of Keisha moved into her neighborhood about six months ago.  She was happy to finally have her own space after living with her parents while raising her 14-year-old daughter, Jasmine.  Keisha has lots of friends and invites them over regularly to listen to loud music in the house.  One night, the music was so loud she couldn’t hear her next-door neighbors knocking.

It wasn’t the first time Frank and Aida had knocked on Keisha’s door to ask her to turn down the music.  As a last resort, they called the police for help.  What started out as a routine noise violation call for Officer Pitts ended up with two arrests.  Officer Pitts repeatedly asked everyone to stop yelling, but things escalated to the point where Keisha was arrested for threatening Frank and Aida and Jasmine was arrested for interfering with her mother’s arrest and placing her hands on Officer Pitts.

Community-based Alternative to Court

At Juvenile Booking, Keisha learned that Jasmine was eligible for a court diversion program called Teen Court.  At that time Keisha also learned about Community Conferencing--that allows groups of people to talk about what happened, how everyone has been affected, and to collectively decide how to best reconcile the matter.  So when Keisha requested a Community Conference in the hopes of resolving things with her neighbors, the CCC agreed to proceed with the referral.

At first Frank and Aida were confused when the Community Conferencing facilitator knocked on their door.  “We have a court date scheduled for the end of the month to deal with the situation.  So if we participate in a Community Conference, does that mean we don’t have to go to court?”  The facilitator explained that, because the Community Conferencing Center did not have any formal agreement with the adult court regarding this matter, the Community Conference would likely have no bearing on the court proceedings.  However, if an agreement was reached at the Community Conference, she could take that agreement to court to see if it might have a bearing on the court outcome.  Keisha still wanted to have the conference in order to reconcile things with Frank and Aida.  They all agreed to meet with the intent to resolve the situation.

The following week, everyone gathered at the Recreation Center down the street from their homes with the understanding that each person attending the Community Conference wanted to make the situation better.

Keisha brought Larry, who lived nearby, for support.  Keisha started the Community Conference by sharing how she wants to have fun and enjoy her newfound freedom.  She liked to party and listen to loud music and how that’s a big part of living on her own.  She expressed her dismay at Frank and Aida calling the police.  Larry added, “Why did you have to go and call the police?”

Aida explained that knocking usually worked but this time it didn’t work so they called 911 as a last resort.  The couple described the scene, including the way Keisha was screaming and spitting at them.  That’s when Larry ran up and started arguing with the Officer Pitts.  Frank commented that he couldn’t believe the mouth Keisha had on her that night.  “You were out of control.  I don’t know if you were drunk or what – but you said you wanted to kill us!  You had no right to threaten our lives, Keisha!”  Officer Pitts couldn’t get her to calm down and stop flailing her arms so he handcuffed her.  That’s when Jasmine interfered with the arrest and got handcuffed as well.  “We didn’t want you to get arrested.  We just wanted to get your attention so that we could talk to you about your loud music.  The BOOM BOOM BOOM gives Aida a headache and at 1 am we can’t get to sleep,” added Frank. 

“I lost my temper and didn’t mean you any harm, Frank.  When I get angry I just lose my mind, and I admit I was wrong.  I shouldn’t have said that to you.  I’m sorry.”  

“We were young once and we understand what it’s like to want to have fun.  We just want you to try to keep it down before 11 o’clock at night,” emphasized Aida.  Keisha agreed with this request, and Aida invited her to come over the next time it’s really loud so she could hear it for herself.  The four of them also exchanged phone numbers to make it easier to contact each other with any future concerns. 

A few weeks later the facilitator followed up with Aida and Frank; they acknowledged the music volume was no longer an issue after 11 o’clock. 

Keisha took her agreement to court with her and the judge dismissed the case.  Imagine how differently the neighbors would be interacting if Keisha hadn’t requested a Community Conference.

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