Whenever a grumpy neighbor calls the San Luis Obispo Police Department complaining of too much noise, two Student Neighborhood Assistance Program (SNAP) officers are sent to the scene to give the homeowners a “first warning.”

“A lot of people like to see us rather than the police because we’re sort of their first line of defense against a big ol’ fine,” said Oggie Brower, a mechanical engineering senior and SNAP officer. “The people who know what we are and know what we do are happy to see us. But there are other people who think we’re just there to break up their party.”

However, Jennifer Jenson, a SNAP officer and kinesiology graduate student, said the biggest misconception about SNAP officers is that their job is to break up the party.

“We’re not there to break up the party at all. That’s the party person’s choice. We’re just there to let them know that their neighbors are calling the police department . so it’s really just to help them out,” Jenson said.

The fine for a noise violation in San Luis Obispo starts at $350. The next noise violation is $700 and a third noise violation is $1,000. That might sound expensive, but it could be worse. In Tempe, Ariz. and San Diego, noise violation fines start at $1,000, said Ardith Tregenza, the Neighborhood Services manager for the San Luis Obispo Police Department.

SNAP started in San Luis Obispo in 1993 in response to the overwhelming number of noise complaint calls made to the police department. Currently, the city gets more than 3,000 noise calls every year, Tregenza said. SNAP officers stay busy on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, dealing with all of the noise violations so the police can focus on major offenses, like DUIs and fights.

When SNAP officers arrive at a house, they issue the homeowner a DAC – a Disturbance Advisement Card – which is a formal warning that stays in effect for 24 hours. If the police department receives another call within 24 hours because of noise, an officer will then come to the home and issue a $350 fine.

If two or more DACs are received within 60 days, the resident is then put on the “premise list,” which means that the house is no longer visited by SNAP officers. Instead, the police are sent directly to the residence for the next six months.

“It’s very effective . it’s very seldom you see anyone that gets on the premise list and keeps partying because it puts a serious dent in your party budget,” Brower said.

Large parties of more than 75 people do not receive a SNAP warning. Officers are automatically sent to deal with the complaint.

“We hear from the officers a lot that students think they’re entitled to get a DAC the first time, but that’s not true at all,” Brower said. Officers can issue a citation on the first contact if they observe a noise violation.

SNAP officers Brower and Jenson explain that what counts as a “noise violation” for a house is not the same as for an apartment. They said they base a violation on a “50-foot rule.” If they hear any noise from 50 feet away, they will visit the residence with a warning. However, the rules are more strict for apartments.

“It’s any noise that can be heard above ambient level 24 hours a day, if it’s unreasonable for the proximity of sleeping areas,” he said. Even a group of four people can be issued a noise violation for simply watching TV too loudly, he said.

“Usually the most difficult is when we have to show up at someone’s house at 8:30 p.m. . People think that the noise ordinance starts at 10 o’clock, but in San Luis it’s 24 hours a day,” Brower said.

But SNAP officers don’t just hand out noise violations. During the day, they also deal with parking violations, noisy animals and paperwork. They also enforce NEO – Neighborhood Enhancement Ordinances. For example, if you have a couch on your roof or a car in your lawn, SNAP officers will come to your house and inform you that you are in violation of a city ordinance.

“NEO is kind of the same thing as SNAP. We’re not handing out citations, we’re just giving them notices that it’s against the municipal code and they have 72 hours to correct it,” Jenson said. “We have a really good response rate with that. And usually it’s because people just don’t realize it’s a violation.”

SNAP officers must be a college student at either Cal Poly or Cuesta, taking at least 11 units and have a GPA over 2.3. Many students wonder why someone who is in college would give up their Friday or Saturday night to be a SNAP officer and hand out noise violation warnings.

Tregenza said the job appeals to many college students because of the high pay rate that allows many SNAP officers to pay their way through college.

Plus, the job has more perks than you might think.

“We actually get to go to all the parties . we’re going to pretty much every party that night. So we don’t miss out on the action too much,” Jenson said. “You’re getting paid to drive a police car around and keep your eye open for stuff. You get to meet a lot of people. It is a fun job. You don’t feel like you’re working a lot of the time.”

But Jenson and Bower said they have had their share of bad nights.

“The big night of the year for us is graduation night and the bad part about that is you have the parents in town,” Brower said. “The parents are 10 times worse to deal with than the students. They don’t know who we are. They just see us as the little 20-year-old there to break up little Johnny’s good time.”

But rather than be sent to break up a party, the organization prefers that students take the time to meet their neighbors and encourage them to contact the students directly with any noise concerns. In fact, Brower said that when people say they think they know who called in on them, they are wrong most of the time.

“We recommend staying inside and keeping your doors and windows closed . and stay out of the garage. The garage amplifies noise,” Jenson said. “We just want the students to know that we are here to help them,”

“Either way you look at it, we’re saving them 350 bucks,” Brower said.

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