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Noise pollution

São Paulo is a big city, the largest in both the western and southern hemisphere and almost 20 million people if you include the suburbs. That means it’s also quite a noisy place, but one thing about all that noise that still annoys me is the alarms.

Shops, banks, cars, motorbikes are all alarmed and therefore “protected” from crime – at least that is the assumption.

But walk down the streets here and you will hear alarms going off all the time. It’s a cacophony of sirens that are entirely ignored by the population. The endless sirens have been normalised and are just a part of the background noise of the city.

Near to where I live there is a Chinese restaurant with a delivery service, meaning quite a few guys on motorbikes will be hanging around outside waiting for an order – so they will get the food and jump on their bike to deliver it. The bike alarms are always going off without anyone ever making any attempt to steal them.

So the alarms are faulty, and when they do go off, they are just ignored – so the alarm serves no purpose. There is a parrot living in a house nearby and he now imitates the alarms on the motorbikes. Even to the point that he copies the siren noise *and* the automatic voice saying “this bike is being stolen, please call this phone number…”

An alarm that is ignored, yet it gives out an automated message with a phone number to call. A futile gesture indeed.

Take a look at this video of a branch of Itau bank near to where I live. This was in the morning today at about 10.30am. The alarm had been screaming out for over 5 hours according to the people in the shops around there.

Five hours. Nobody from Itau did anything to shut down the alarm. No police or security paid any attention. What is the point of an audible alarm like this if nothing happens when the alarm goes off?

Here is a radical suggestion to the mayor of São Paulo… ban all the audible alarms. Bank and shop alarms could send a message to the security people. Cars and bikes would just have an immobiliser instead of an audible alarm.

The alarms would be a lot more effective in protecting against crime, and the people in the city would be able to marvel at their new-found peace.

The mayor did something similar with his Cidade limpa legislation in 2006 – where all billboards and public advertising were banned and removed. How about dealing with the aural, as well as visual, pollution?