Sandy Hill residents fear police may soon ignore their noise complaints. Beginning April 1, Ottawa police will classify noise complaints as a lower priority than in the past.

Rideau-Vanier Ward Coun. Mathieu Fleury said he only learned of the new policy in a recent meeting with the head of Ottawa's bylaw services.

"Basically what that means is that noise is not an issue to police and they don't want to respond to it," he said.

Ward 12 — home to Sandy Hill, the University of Ottawa area, and the Lowertown neighbourhood —  frequently makes headlines for noise complaints.

A noise complaint to 311 first draws a pair of bylaw officers. They will assess the complaint, and may issue a warning, or a ticket.  

If the source of the noise is violence, or a crowd that is out of control, bylaw officers escalate the complaint and pass it along to police, who will respond.

Last year, it happened 3,600 times across the city.

'Hybrid system' worked: Fleury

"It demonstrates the escalation — the need for police to be involved in that situation", said Fleury.

Fleury points out that in the majority of Ontario jurisdictions, it's police who respond to noise calls.

He said Ottawa's "hybrid system" of bylaw officers and police response works and that police can not be taken out of the equation.

 "It's transferring costs back onto bylaw and bylaw's not equipped to deal with those 3,600 calls in the first place"

 'Residents of Ottawa have identified noise calls as a serious quality of life issue in our capital city — so we have to be able to properly respond.' - Coun. Mathieu Fleury

Ljiljana and Oscar Duplancic have run Bella Notte Bed & Breakfast on Daly Avenue since 1999.

Ljiljana said during spring and fall, loud student parties are common on neighbouring Cumberland Street. 

She said she believes the best approach is to talk to her neighbours about their excessive noise before calling in a complaint.

"Sometime it works, but if you see the party is going, lots of booze, more people are coming — then I call the police. They get wild. Not only screaming, you see something is not right. The police can stop them."
 
Duplancic and her husband call 311 about twice a year to report a party that has gotten out of control.

U of O student wants police response too

But she said that's a call she makes as much to preserve Ottawa's reputation as a tourist destination as to get a good night's sleep.

"I think it's very important to consider the welcoming of the city [so that] people feel comfortable and safe. I think we need the help of the police," Duplancic said.

Sandy Hill party 2012

Some Sandy Hill residents complained after hundreds of people partied on the corner of Chapel Street and Somerset Street East on St. Patrick's Day in 2012. A video of the party was posted on YouTube. (YouTube)

Though his housemates have themselves been the subject of noise complaints, second-year University  of Ottawa student Alex Melek says police are needed.

"If it gets bad, you know you can have one of those nights. If it's lower on the priority list then that's just not good for everyone in the neighbourhood, not just myself," he said.

Fleury has asked for a meeting with the chief of police and the chief of bylaw services where he says he will ask for a review of the policy and a delay of its implementation.