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Fred Meyer to stop playing loud music in parking lot overnight after neighbor complaints

People living around the Gateway Fred Meyer said they were frustrated with loud classical music playing outside the store in the late night and early morning hours.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Fred Meyer will stop blasting classical music from loudspeakers in the parking lot at some stores overnight, after complaints from neighbors. 

Several neighbors living near the Gateway Fred Meyer in Northeast Portland told KGW on Wednesday they were fed up with the music, calling it both irritating and inhumane.

On Friday, the grocery chain said it will be turning it off moving forward. It had admitted earlier in the week it had recently started to play the classical music at select store locations to discourage illegal and dangerous activity. 

Critics told KGW News the music was a nuisance to everyone in the area - and was often too loud, and played for far too long, keeping them up at night. 

"It's the equivalent of torture. This is what they use in enhanced interrogation techniques," said a neighbor named Paul. He lives directly across the street from the grocery store.

"I first heard it actually about four months ago," said Christopher Welsch, who lives around the corner from this Fred Meyer, "We all heard it really loudly, all of our neighbors were like - what is that sound, what is that music?"

A spokesperson for Fred Meyer issued this statement to KGW News on Wednesday:

'Our goal is to maintain a safe community in and around our stores at all times. We have recently started playing classical music outside select stores, which is intended to be a neighborhood-friendly way to discourage illegal or unsafe activities. We will continue to listen to community input and make adjustments to help ensure a safe environment for the communities that we serve.'

Paul told KGW News, he wouldn't call the music neighborhood-friendly.

"This is not a community-friendly exercise if you ask me. I don't think it's helping to solve any problems whatsoever with homelessness. I think that it is inhumane. Cruel. And they should be ashamed."

He said he had called the store multiple times without any action, and had even called the surveillance company supplying these devices, but the music continued on. 

"I can’t escape the noise unless I drown it out with loud volume on television, and eventually I’ll get to sleep that way," he said, "But I have neighbors here being awakened by this. It disturbs me greatly."

"It’s really frustrating because the thing is designed to irritate people who are homeless, to deter them from being in that space," said Welsch, "But when it’s so loud that everybody in the neighborhood is hearing it - like there are people standing on the sidewalk confused about what that noise is, and it’s irritating them - they know that they’re irritating everyone else in the neighborhood and it’s like they don’t care. I've contacted them, they haven’t responded. They haven’t said anything."

Portland police reported seven disturbance calls since Oct. 17 to this location, all related to loud music. However, PPB doesn't generally enforce noise complaints, citing the calls as lower priority, coupled with insufficient staffing to respond, according to a PPB sergeant.

KGW News checked in with the city about an investigation into these complaints, however, the city has yet to respond to these inquiries.