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Breaking silence is breaking law in Coraopolis

| Saturday, July 27, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Crickets should be cautious if they're bound for Coraopolis.

The insects' instinctive chirping could prove costly, thanks to a new anti-noise ordinance adopted by the small borough of about 5,000 along the Ohio River. The fine for violating the law is $500, an amount that far exceeds the net worth of most antennaed creatures.

Silence isn't merely golden in Coraopolis. It's also silver and bronze, judging from the Olympic-worthy noise restrictions that essentially render the decibel an aural enemy of the state. This law probably would be considered extreme even by the high standards of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh shushers and hairshirt-clad monks operating under vows of silence.

Borough council unanimously approved the ordinance in an unapologetic, united effort to dispatch any din. The law's mission statement alone should prompt any cricket thinking of visiting the Jailhouse Saloon on Fifth Avenue to quickly consider imbibing elsewhere, or, at the very least, refrain from playing the jukebox.

The law declares that borough residents are entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of their premises. “If that enjoyment is interrupted by unreasonably loud noise, residents now have recourse,” it states ominously, implying but never explicitly stating the potential for vigilantism.

Specifically banned are the unreasonably loud use of horns or other warning devices; playing any radio, phonograph or musical instrument at a volume that disturbs the quiet; and any clamorous public yelling, shooting, hooting and whistling.

Whistling? Imagine the thought process that went into including in the law a practice that for generations has served as a harmless occupational diversion for dwarves.

First council member: “This noise ordinance is incredibly weak. Let's give it some teeth by outlawing loud whistling.”

Second council member: “Considering that Coraopolis is approximately four miles from the Pittsburgh International Airport runways, isn't it a bit silly to discuss banning loud whistling?”

First council member: “Not at all. Sometimes the whistlers are so loud, I can't hear the roar of the jets passing overhead.”

Second council member (shrugs): “OK, then.”

The ordinance is so strict that Coraopolis probably will be sued if it fines anyone unaware of the borough's severe noise prohibitions. To avoid litigation, electronic message boards should strategically be placed on streets to offer gentle reminders that the hush is considered hallowed in this town. The messages could be along the lines of “Stay Mellow, Don't Bellow — It's the Law.”

Insects incapable of paying the inevitable fines for their noise violations obviously risk incarceration. Although that's unfair as they only are behaving instinctively, such arrests finally would answer a question that has stymied entomologists for years.

How do you handcuff a cricket?

Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or eheyl@tribweb.com.

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