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Ask the Chief: Light up the holiday, not the neighbors

Red Wing Police Chief Roger Pohlman

"Ask The Chief" allows readers access to useful information about law enforcement issues in Red Wing. This communication tool has been developed to enhance community policing efforts by providing residents and visitors with the opportunity to ask questions about local laws, programs and the department in general.

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Q: My neighbor's Christmas light display is driving me crazy. What can I do with the light pollution?

A: Personally, I love the Christmas light displays, but I understand if you live next to the "Christmas Vacation Griswolds."

Does your neighbor understand that his/her lights are a bit much? Do they run all night or are they on a timer?

I recommend that your first step is to visit with your neighbor over a cup of coffee and a Christmas cookie. Let him/her know that the amount of light being emitted from their display is disrupting your sleep or however else it may be interfering with your quality of life. Your neighbors probably don't even realize that their lights are bothering you.

When visiting with your neighbor. remember to make friends, not enemies; ask open-ended questions to better understand their point of view. If the lights run all night, a simple compromise could be to utilize a timer that would turn the light display on at 5 p.m. and off at 10 pm. Stay positive and remember that your neighbor's have a right to light their property.

If your neighbor's light display includes music, it cannot violate City Code 10.17, Noise, which states: "No person shall make, continue or cause to be made or continued, any loud, and/or unnecessary noise, which is reasonably likely to annoy, disturb, injure or endanger the comfort, repose, health, peace or safety of others provided that this section shall not be construed to apply to singing or playing of musical instruments and other mechanical means inside churches, nor entertainments carried on in public buildings, where an admission fee is charged therefor, nor noise of manufacturing institutions."

My final concern as a law enforcement official is if your neighbor has created such an outstanding light display that crowds may gather to enjoy the light show. They must allow for people or vehicles to view the display without interfering with the normal flow of traffic — pedestrian or vehicular.

City Code 10.23, Loitering in Streets or Public Places state that pedestrians and vehicles cannot stop "loiter" which is defined as obstruction of a sidewalk or public way that obstructs the free and unhampered passage of pedestrians or vehicles.

Remember that Christmas is a time of kindness, caring and sharing, work to find the common ground, and respect everyone's enjoyment of the holiday season!


1. Red Wing City Code 10.17, Noise.

2. Red Wing City Code 10.23, Loitering in Streets or Public Places