CITY ASSERTS THAT NOISE COMPLAINT HOTLINE IS UNDERUTILIZED
Residents say voice mails go unanswered
Last year, the City of Twentynine Palms hired a private contractor called Southwest Security to handle weekend noise complaints from VHRs. Their officer is on duty from 6pm-2am every Friday and Saturday, patrolling public spaces around town in between dispatch calls. These unarmed officers do not have authority to make arrests; their primary function is to collect detailed information including photos and SPL (sound pressure level) readings from the street, which Code Enforcement can use on Monday morning to enforce penalties including fines, suspension, or revocation of a rental permit. It’s unclear whether any actions have actually been taken in response to these calls so far. This service is intended to get a faster response than the sheriff’s department, which often treats loud parties as a low priority.
According to City Manager Frank Luckino at the April 26 city council meeting, the Southwest Security have received only four disturbance calls since beginning in October 2021. Councilman Steve Bilderain believed this as a fact:
The truth is we have this because people were saying, “VHRs are partying all the time,” and now the proof’s in there that they’re not partying all the time. So we’re spending a lot of money for people crying wolf… We talk about spending city money on useless stuff, so let’s utilize it more than just VHRs.
The council voted to continue the contract with Southwest Security, at a cost of $35K/year, and extend the services to handle any type of disturbance, not only VHRs.
This 760-362-6927 hotline is staffed 24/7 by dispatchers in El Centro, but unfortunately the local officer will only respond during working hours (6pm - 2am on Fri/Sat). The City website suggests using this line any time of day to “file a complaint directly with City Code Enforcement”, but based on my own conversation with the dispatcher, they are not logging calls received outside of those hours. Also, anecdotal evidence from multiple residents suggests that voicemails left there are lost into the ether, so it’s difficult to get a true count of how many people are trying to use this service. Hopefully the City can clarify these policies to make the hotline more useful as a single place to direct all complaints. For now, if you need to report something on a weekday, or before 6pm, my suggestion is to try the hotline first, and also fill out the online form to make sure it gets through to Code Enforcement.
While the hotline is featured prominently on the City website, the signs posted outside every VHR show the property manager’s or owner’s phone number instead. If you only call that number, the City won’t hear about it so the report will not be investigated or result in a fine.