By Jeannine anderson
BALTIMORE – David Jarinko’s friends like to tease him about his job. “What’d you do this week?” they ask him. “Who’d you bust?”
Jarinko, an inspector for the Department of the Environment, is Maryland’s noise cop. He’s a one-man department, on call 24 hours a day. He wears a black jacket with a badge. Instead of a gun, he carries a noise meter.
“The police handle 99.9 percent of noise complaints in the state,” Jarinko said from his office in south Baltimore. “We get the ones that fall between the cracks.”
That amounts to about 300 complaints a year from all over Maryland. In the last few months, Jarinko has settled problems involving dirt bikes in Davidsonville, a noisy landfill operation near Upper Marlboro, loud band music in Ocean City, and dozens of other such disputes.
Jarinko, 54, never pictured he’d end up a noise cop. He majored in psychology in college before working for 20 years as a sales representative for an industrial chemical company in Pennsylvania.
In 1994, he was working for the state’s clean air program when he heard about the noise inspection job. He landed it and found the work suited him.
“This is the most interesting job I have ever had,” he said. “The people you meet, the various and sundry types of complaints.”
He often has to grab his meter in the middle of the night to go take a measurement, since people get really mad about noise that keeps them from sleeping.
He’s busiest in the summer, when noise floats in easily through open windows.
State regulations set a limit of 65 decibels for sounds intruding on private property during the day. The nighttime limit is 55 decibels.
The state can issue a fine of as much as $10,000 a day for a continuing noise violation, though so far it never has had to.
Maryland’s noise control program “is not designed to be a first responder,” Jarinko stressed. Complaints should go first to local police, or town officials.
The noise must be recurring and fairly predictable. For example, a loud trash pickup in the middle of the night. Or dogs barking and howling at 6 a.m.
Or church bells.
For the last three years, people who live near St. John’s Episcopal Church in Baltimore’s Waverly neighborhood have protested that the church bells are too loud and ring too often. The bells at St. John’s ring on the hour, the half hour and the quarter hour, every day, from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m.
Late last year, Jarinko made several visits with his meter. He found that the bells were registering at up to 75 decibels – 10 above the limit.
The church responded by installing plexiglass panels in three of the belfry’s four openings. New measurements that Jarinko took in February showed that this had dampened the sound to meet the noise limit.
The bells still disturb some people who live nearby, said Dolores Moran, president of the 600 East 31st Street Block Association. The sound “is actually quite punishing over time,” she said. “A wealthier neighborhood wouldn’t put up with this.”
Even though she remains unhappy about the bells, Moran has nothing but praise for Jarinko. “He’s wonderful,” she said. “I’m very impressed by his seriousness.”
The Department of the Environment has received quite a few complimentary letters about Jarinko. He “seems well versed in handling people who are not in the best emotional state,” wrote one lawyer.
Shawna Kane, a resident of Davidsonville, near Annapolis, wrote to say she and her neighbors were “tormented for three years” by teen-agers racing around on dirt bikes. If Jarinko had not brought them some relief, “we would have had to move,” she said.
The bikers “were riding legally in a semi-rural area,” Jarkinko said. “Their parents were saying, `Give us a break. The kids aren’t robbing the 7-11, they’re not on dope. They’re out riding around, having a good time.’ And that was true.”
The noise cop told the bike riders they needed to stay 300 feet from the yards of the people who were complaining. They’ve done that, for the most part, Kane said. “It’s been a big help.”
One of the more pleasant jobs Jarinko has had was to sit on Chesapeake Beach in Calvert County with his sound meter, listening to a band playing at a restaurant. The nighttime music was disturbing residents of the condominium next door.
Jarinko found that the music was too loud. The restaurant responded by buying a noise meter so the manager could monitor the volume level. The complaints stopped.
Listening to music on a beach is one thing. There are other times when the job isn’t so picturesque.
“I wouldn’t normally sit out listening to the sound of a dumpster dumping,” Jarinko said, laughing.
He likes it all, though.
“To me this isn’t work,” he said. “This is fun. I couldn’t imagine doing anything much more interesting than what I do now.”
And when he’s not at work? You can find him in a tiny town in Cecil County, on the Chesapeake Bay, about a block away from the water. “It’s very quiet on the banks of the Chesapeake,” he said. -30-