DPS begins holiday crack down, including noise law

Bus drivers complain

Police will begin their annual end of the year holiday enforcement today in an effort to keep American Samoa peaceful and safe during the next two weeks, which will bring the territory through the Christmas and New Years holidays.
However, some bus drivers are unhappy that the Department of Public Safety has stepped up enforcement of a 2012 law that prohibits operating a motor vehicle whose sound system can be heard outside the vehicle — from 50 or more feet away — when the vehicle is on the highway. 
The sound amplification law, through a bill sponsored by then Sen. Lemanu Peleti Mauga, and approved by the Fono in September 2011, was signed into law by then Gov. Togiola Tulafono in October the same year. In signing the bill at the time, Togiola said, “preserving the peace and tranquility which should prevail in our villages is an important goal.”
The law primarily affects aiga buses and taxis whose drivers blast their music as they travel down the road.
E_____nforcement of the law last year prompted complaints from bus and taxi drivers to Samoa News, which should point out that drivers of private vehicles can also be cited under this law, if their music is blasting too loudly as they go down the road.
And with the territory heading into Christmas and the New Year, police have stepped up enforcement — issuing tickets to aiga bus drivers whose music violates the noise law.
 One bus driver questioned why police have now started to enforce the law, at a time when music from buses is meant to  entertain passengers during the holiday season. He says he always plays the music loudly, and has never been stopped by the police, and was surprised when he was recently stopped and given a ticket for the loud music.
Two other bus drivers also questioned why police have decided to start enforcing this law at this time,  and have heard from fellow drivers of being stopped by police.
Tafuna-based bus driver Manori Amituana’i, the only one who didn’t have any problem being identified by name, says the reason for having the music loud is to attract passengers, who want it to be loud. He says that if police force bus drivers to lower the music, that’s a loss of passengers as well as a loss of revenue.
However, one bus driver admitted that drivers should keep in mind that there are also elderly passengers and others who do not like the music so loud.
While no complaints from bus drivers have reached DPS, deputy police commissioner Leseiau Laumoli said police do enforce this law and have been enforcing it. Additionally, there shouldn’t be complaints directed to police officers because they are only enforcing the law, adding that any complaints should be officially presented to the Police Commissioner’s Office.
Samoa News understands the reason some bus drivers have been given citations was because passengers had contacted police about their concerns with the very loud music.
At least two passengers said that they have complained to bus drivers to turn down their music but the drivers refused. “I know there is a law in place, so I called the police station and I believe other unhappy passengers, did the same — they called police and gave them the license and color of the bus,” said one passenger, who takes the bus daily to work.
Leseiau urged not only bus and tax drivers to be extra careful on the road during the holiday season, but also urged private motorists to be careful, especially in areas where there is a lot of foot-traffic — such as the Laufou Shopping Center area.
The  two-week annual DPS holiday enforcement begins at 6a.m. today and ends at 6p.m. on Jan. 3, 2014. The enforcement includes road-blocks at unannounced locations where drivers are checked if they are sober.
“If you drink, don’t drive — find a designated driver,” he said.
To put it another way, “If you drive — don’t drink.”
And like in past years, police will not only check for sobriety among drivers of private vehicles, they will also check on taxi and bus drivers.
Police will also be enforcing beer and liquor laws, which include that all bars and night clubs close at 2a.m. and that stores that sell such items do not sell to anyone under the age of 21.  Additionally, stores are prohibited from selling beer and liquor after 10p.m. and the sale of liquor is banned on Sundays, except at hotels and restaurants.
Samoa News reporters Ausage Fausia and Fili Sagapolutele contributed to this report.


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