Monday, July 14, 2014

Classical Music To Deter Crime?

If you Google "classical music loitering," dozens of articles from all over the world appear, all claiming that if classical music's played in train stations, parking lots, and outside of shops, loiterers don't hang around. And if certain loiterers keep moving, certain crimes never happen.

A friend shared a 2011 article with me last week about how Pottstown had experimented with playing classical music in its downtown area. Apparently the town had a P.A. system on its streets already, with 39 speakers, so it cost nothing to try. The only 2 problems they had were that the audio system was antiquated and not reliable, and that the people who lived in the area who worked nights complained that the noise kept them awake. Otherwise, most people felt that the music added a touch of class to the downtown, and most retailers seemed to believe the music really did discourage loitering. I don't know if Pottstown still plays the music. If they don't, it might simply be because the speakers died.

So I looked online for studies about classical music's effects on loitering. I found no studies (though some articles mentioned that a study had been done--no sources, though). What I did find were items from London, Atlanta, Minneapolis, L.A., New Jersey Transit, Australia and elsewhere, saying it had been tried there and it worked.

About a year ago, one article said that YMCA in Columbus, OH started playing Vivaldi in their parking lot. They claim it disperses petty drug dealers.

Jacqueline Helfgott, chair of the criminal-justice department at Seattle University, noted that classical music is often accompanied by environmental upgrades like better lighting, improved traffic flow, or trimmed shrubbery in public areas.

Actually, you might have encountered the strategy yourself and didn't realize it. My best friend pointed out that, at King of Prussia Plaza, back where the more exclusive stores are (F section on the map), classical music is played. In the other sections, you hear regular Musak outside the stores. You see a lot more people--especially teens--simply hanging around (not even window shopping) in the D and E areas. There's a different, quieter mood in the F area. But there are still shoppers in those stores. And I swear there's less litter on the floor.

As one article said, not all classical music works. Pieces from the Baroque and Classical eras (17th and 18th centuries) seem to work best, maybe because back then they had a form of music called a divertimento--written to be played as background music for parties and other social functions. Sort of the Musak of the time. Whatever, as one article put it, there's something about Baroque music that wannbe gangsters hate.

Now, I don't think the Borough should put up an expensive speaker system downtown to try this out, but our businesses might consider piping a little classical music out in front of their stores. It doesn't have to be loud--in fact, loud music could discourage potential customers and make enemies of your neighbors. Just loud enough to be heard a few feet on either side of your place. Or if you have another business next to yours, consider splitting the cost of the system to cover both properties, so you'll play the same music.

If it keeps the drug dealers away, discourages litterers, and makes our retail areas feel a bit more classy, I say go for it.

Here are a few of the articles if you want to read them:


New Jersey:!/story/281248-does-classical-music-train-stations-really-deter-crime/


  1. Downtown Disney in Orlando started doing that a few years ago when gang and drugs took over their nightclubs. At a certain hour, they would switch the music to classical or smooth jazz as a "wind down" to encourage people to go home for the night. It has worked wonders, but is extremely expensive.

    1. Do you mean live classical and jazz? Because otherwise, why would it be expensive?

    2. I am curious also as to why it would be more expensive ???