[TowerTalk] CB operator charged under new city law

KD8OK kd8ok at n-focus.com
Wed May 21 11:51:07 EDT 2003

This may not have much to do with antennas, but it could be a concern for
all hams in the future.

CB operator charged under new city law

By KRISTIN GORDON, kgordon at nncogannett.com
The Eagle-Gazette Staff


Complaints from a group of neighbors experiencing interference on household
appliances from phones and TVs to baby monitors have resulted in a court
case against a local citizens band radio operator.

James A. Disbennet, 48, 427 Harrison Ave., is charged with operating a CB
radio exceeding 4 watts, a first-degree misdemeanor, and two counts of
operating a CB radio without certification, a fourth-degree misdemeanor.
Disbennet, whose handle is "Sugar Bear," answered a summons in Fairfield
County Municipal Court last Tuesday and was released on a recognizance bond.

In August 2002, Lancaster City Council was the first in the U.S. to pass
such an ordinance, allowing the city to enforce rules set by the Federal
Communication Commission regulating the strength of CB radios, said
Assistant City Law Director Dave Trimmer.

According to the ordinance, the definition of CB radio "includes all
private, two-way, short-distance voice communications service for personal
or business activities of the general public."

In January, local residents began to log feedback problems they experienced,
Trimmer said. Noise was reported on Harrison, Fifth and Washington avenues.

One woman had problems almost every time she used her telephone. She said it
interfered with calls such as learning a family member was in the hospital.

Another woman heard interference over a baby monitor she keeps near her
husband who suffered from a stroke. When she heard calls from a CB radio
operator named "Sugar Bear" late at night, she would have to turn off the
monitor so it wouldn't wake her husband.

"Complainants must have a log of the interference for a minimum of four
weeks and there has to be more than one complainant in order to file
charges," Trimmer said.

After a phone conversation with a woman on Harrison Avenue where he could
hear interference himself, Trimmer went to the neighborhood to investigate,
he said. He talked to a few individuals, including Disbennet, who said he
was a CB radio operator but did not possess an amplifier to exceed the
lawful power output.

"It's a hobby," Trimmer said. "Sometimes these hobbies get in the way of the
rights of the neighbors."

On April 10, Tim Deitz, assistant superintendent of the city's Electrical,
Communications and Signals Department, used a relative signal strength meter
in the 400 block of Harrison Avenue to determine where interference was
coming from. The signals he received came from Disbennet's home, which had a
40- to 50-foot antenna attached to it.

A search warrant was performed the next day by Lancaster police, who seized
four pieces of CB radio equipment worth more than $1,000 from Disbennet's

"We're obviously treading on new ground," said Scott Wood, Disbennet's
attorney. "He's not been given any type of option to defend himself. This is
a big hobby for him, something he enjoys doing.

"It has him concerned, of course -- he could be facing jail time."

The maximum penalty for a first-degree misdemeanor is a $1,000 fine and 180
days in jail.

Wood also is concerned about the case, which he's just begun investigating.

"It's obviously a very interesting case -- this is the first ordinance of
its kind in the country," he said. "But apparently, this ordinance was
passed in August 2002 but was never published."

According to the ordinance, No. 30-02, it was passed by council Aug. 26 and
approved Aug. 28.

The city started looking into the problem nearly two years earlier after
neighbors on Talmadge Avenue started having problems, Trimmer said. The city
received a petition with 28 signatures and contacted the FCC repeatedly
about the problem of enforcement.

Originally published Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Michael Murphy - KD8OK

mmurphy at n-focus.com
kd8ok at n-focus.com


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