While Cambridge is one of the most densely populated cities in the U.S., it attempts through its comprehensive noise ordinance to minimize the impact of noise on the quality of life in its neighborhoods and business districts. The City's Emergency Communications and 911 Center (ECC), the Police Department, the License Commission, the Animal Commission, the Inspectional Services Department, and even the Arts Council are involved in one way or another in helping to solve many different types of noise-related problems.
The list below itemizes various types of noises and provides suggestions, in the general context of the rules set out in the City Noise Ordinance, on how a resident may take action to solve his or her noise problem.
Call the ECC at the police non-emergency number, 617-349-3300, and the ECC will dispatch the appropriate neighborhood police unit to respond and stop excessive noise. Sometimes the neighborhood unit is busy on another call or going on or off-duty at their shift change, so please be patient in awaiting a response.
This might involve any type of noise disturbance including excessive noise from a neighbor’s house or apartment, kids on a street corner, loud car stereos, etc. Call the ECC at the police non-emergency number, 617-349-3300, and the ECC will dispatch the appropriate neighborhood police unit. Sometimes the neighborhood unit is busy on another call or going on or off-duty at their shift change, so please be patient in awaiting a response.
Please notify the ECC immediately by calling 911 because a business or residence may be having a fire or break-in. The ECC will immediately dispatch a police or fire unit to this alarm report. If the alarm continues sounding after fire or police arrival, both the responding units and the ECC dispatcher will attempt to locate the owner or owner’s representative. The owner can be cited for an outdoor alarm sounding for over 10 minutes.
Please notify the ECC using 911 as the car may be vandalized, stolen, or being broken into. The ECC will dispatch a police unit to this alarm report. If the alarm continues after police arrival, both the responding officers and the ECC staff will attempt to locate the owner. The police will generally tow the vehicle if the alarm continues to sound after all attempts have been made to locate the owner. The owner can be cited for an alarm sounding over 10 minutes.
If you are having problems with excessive noise from a festival, call the ECC at the police non-emergency number, 617-349-3300. The ECC is notified in advance by the License Commission of permits for these festivals, especially over the weekends. A neighborhood police unit will be dispatched and investigate. If available, a License investigator will also be notified to respond and he or she can insure that the terms of the permit are being observed. Please note that permits for festivals can sometimes authorize outdoor music until 11 p.m. or so.
Call the Police at their non-emergency number, 617-349-3300, and the ECC will schedule the dispatch of the appropriate neighborhood police unit. Construction noise that is audible a distance of 50 feet from the lot line is not allowed from 6 p.m. until 7a.m. weekdays (9 a.m. on Saturdays and Holidays). Construction work on Sunday is not permitted unless approval is obtained from the Police Department. If the responding police unit determines that construction-related noise is occurring outside permitted hours, the police unit will take necessary action to ensure work is stopped during the restricted hours. Additionally, the ECC dispatcher will send an e-mail to the Inspectional Services Department with the details of the incident, so they may investigate further and take additional action as may be appropriate.
Noise from emergency repairs by utility company and other workers is permitted.
Call the Police at their non-emergency number, 617-349-3300, and the ECC will schedule the dispatch of the appropriate neighborhood police unit to respond and stop excessive noise. You may also file a complaint with the Cambridge License Commission for loud noise coming from any bar or restaurant that serves alcohol. Call 617-349-6140 for a complaint form or obtain one on-line at License Commission web site.
There are various restrictions on the volume of noise from the loading and unloading of trucks from 9 p.m. - 7a.m. (9 a.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays) although there are exceptions for certain types of stores and facilities such as schools as well as along certain streets in commercial areas that are not designated as noise-sensitive zones. Call the ECC at the police non-emergency number, 617-349-3300, and a police unit will respond and stop excessive noise unless the activity is permitted.
Call the Animal Commission at 617-349-4376 during their regular business hours (Monday – Friday 7:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.; Sat. & Sun.& Holidays, 7:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.) to report a habitual problem with a barking dog. If an Animal Control Officer is not available, call the ECC, at the police non-emergency number, 617-349-3300, and the ECC will dispatch the appropriate neighborhood police unit. Sometimes the neighborhood unit is busy with another call or going off-duty at their shift change, so please be patient in awaiting a response.
If you are experiencing a problem with excessive noise from a rooftop HVAC unit or other outdoor commercial equipment you may call the License Commission at 617-349-6140 during their regular business hours (8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. weekdays). If required, this type of noise may be measured by City staff using a handheld noise meter.
The Cambridge Arts Council issues permits to street performers to play music in certain places at certain times. During the summer months, they hire monitors that check on street performer activities. During regular business hours (8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. weedays), call the Arts Council at 617-349-4380 to complain about noisy street performers. For after-hours noise problems from street performers, call the ECC at the police non-emergency number, 617-349-3300, and a police unit will be dispatched to investigate.
Church Bells/Clock Towers
Bells towers or clock towers with bells or chimes are exempt from the City's Noise Ordinance.
Noise from City owned or privately owned snow removal equipment or snowplows is generally allowed.
Emergency vehicle sirens and horns are exempt from the City's Noise Ordinance.
Call the Federal Aviation Administration’s Flight Standards District Office for the Boston area at 781-357-4900 to report aircraft noise or low flying aircraft.
These guidelines do not cover all aspects of the City's Noise Ordinance nor describe all conditions under which noise is either permitted or not permitted. For more information, please refer to the Noise Ordinance section of the Cambridge Municipal Code (City Ordinances) at http://bpc.iserver.net/codes/cbridge/index.htm .