Aural Policing

According to an article in the Economist, quoted here by the Washington Monthly blog, a British grocery store chain has been successfully deterring rowdy youths from hanging around their stores by playing classical music. Mozart and Pavarotti appear to be especially potent at warding off juvenile delinquents. The same technique has been working in underground stations. Something about this strikes me as a bit odd. Why would it work? Just because the kids don't like having to listen to classical music? Could it really be that easy? Perhaps it is.

Entertainment Law/Police/Crime

Posted on Tue Jan 11, 2005


This isn't so odd -- they employ this very technique at my local 7-Eleven in LA. It really works, plus it makes buying a Chili-Cheese Stick a classy affair.
Posted by Josh  on  Tue Jan 11, 2005  at  02:15 AM
I recall several stories of this nature from the last few years in the British press. Either they're all using the idea when they read a previous story, or this is an urban legend.
Posted by Andrew Nixon  on  Tue Jan 11, 2005  at  03:00 AM
It indeed seems odd, but in the Netherlands this technique proved effective too. I saw it in a tv-show (not a hoax). Of course, more people then just juveniles dislike (loud) classical music, so not only disturbing juveniles will stay away.
Posted by Tychikus  on  Tue Jan 11, 2005  at  04:06 AM
I never seem to notice what type of music in particular is playing. If I'm in a location long enough, I might realize there's music, but I'm usually alone, b/c if I'm speaking w/ someone, I would never notice.

Also, when I was a 'youth' I played the Violin & Piano...I could still get in trouble, but I didn't mind listening to classical music anyway. I knew lots of kids in orchestra that were bad apples.
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Tue Jan 11, 2005  at  08:23 AM
+DISCALIMER: I like classical music. +

When a place starts playing classical music, it stops being a "cool" place to hang out, because classical music is so uncool. My mom was once at a library where they played classical music outside, but their system was backfiring because there was a kid who liked classical music hanging out and listening to it.
Posted by PlantPerson  on  Tue Jan 11, 2005  at  09:06 AM
I used to work at a Taco Bell in my teenage years, and they recommended this in our training video, too--"if rowdy teenage hoodlums start congregating in the restaurant, play classical music as a deterrent."

I always pictured them shrieking, "RACHMANINOFF! I'm melllllllllllllllting!"
Posted by Celia  on  Tue Jan 11, 2005  at  09:08 AM
This chestnut has been around for a long, long, time. I keep hearing about convenience stores, shopping malls, supermarkets, and other places that have solved their problem of delinquents hanging around by playing classical music or some other presumably uncool music (elevator-type easy-listening music is also frequently mentioned). Maybe it's even true in at least some cases, but juvenile troublemakers of my acquaintance (including me, some years ago) are not so easily discouraged.
It would be easier for me to believe that you could keep adults away by playing loud gangsta rap music.
One version of the above legend had the store playing Muzak at the wrong speed through bad speakers, which I can believe would indeed repel teenagers-- and everyone else.
Posted by Big Gary C  on  Tue Jan 11, 2005  at  02:12 PM
I can see it working on the townies (i.e populars/cool kids), maybe, although they didn't seem to run out screaming when we were 'forced' to listen to bohemian rapsody (dunno how to spell it) in music. of course, our school doesn't have the best reputation so teachers tend to avoid it so now no-one can take music at all...
Posted by amy  on  Tue Jan 11, 2005  at  03:17 PM
interesting definition of "townies". I haven't heard that one. When I went to college, "townies" were folks who lived in the area year-round, as opposed to the college kids who only lived there during the school year.
Posted by Matt  on  Tue Jan 11, 2005  at  04:46 PM
I guess you can say, I am one of the odd ones. Back when I was in junior high, and high school, I was a skater punk, with the loud bassy type stereo in my car, and all, but my music of choice was, and still is classical music. I had a mohawk that was always a different color, black fingernail polish, and all. It didnt seem to bother any of my friends either, while none of them owned any classical music, they seemed to enjoy listening to it, when I drove(which was often).
Posted by piercedfreak  on  Tue Jan 11, 2005  at  06:30 PM
obviously these people haven't watched a clockwork orange. pity.
Posted by surreal8  on  Tue Jan 11, 2005  at  07:45 PM

BBC story;
Last Updated: Monday, 10 January, 2005, 14:46 GMT
E-mail this to a friend Printable version
Music to deter yobs by
By Melissa Jackson
BBC News Magazine

It will be music to the ears of anyone who's been plagued by vandalism and anti-social behaviour - a blast of Mozart or Vivaldi. It seems the classics can speak volumes when it comes to changing the mood music.

The experience of standing at a bus stop or railway station and feeling intimidated, perhaps by a group of teenagers hanging around, is not uncommon.

Dealing with it has led to a variety of expensive attempted solutions, including the installation of CCTV. But the idea of using piped classical music, for some years spoken of as a joke, is gradually being adopted as a widespread and low-cost solution.

For the cost of some speakers, and the necessary licence to play piped music, problem areas can apparently be painlessly resolved. Even the Co-op is giving it a go, outside some of its shops.

Tyne and Wear Metro was one of the first to recognise the pacifying force of the great composers when, inspired by the success of schemes operating in Canada, it began playing classical music at some outlying stations. "
Posted by aw  on  Tue Jan 11, 2005  at  07:46 PM
Whoops, copied some header info by accident :o
Posted by aw  on  Tue Jan 11, 2005  at  07:47 PM
I, for one, am much more dettered by musak, a store that playes anything else... ANYTHING else, is much more appealing. i'm 20 now, and my favorite hobby store plays constant late 80's, early 90's rap, most of which I dislike. ANY music is makes for better ambience.
Posted by mormagli  on  Tue Jan 11, 2005  at  08:24 PM
I'll bet that playing some "music" by The Carpenters or by BJ Thomas would be much more effective. Dang. I've got to buy a new keyboard.
Posted by BugbearSloth  in  earth, 3rd planet, sol system  on  Tue Jan 11, 2005  at  10:24 PM
"obviously these people haven't watched a clockwork orange. pity."

John Safran anyone?
Posted by Rain  on  Wed Jan 12, 2005  at  04:26 AM
Matt (this is Amy btw, I was amy before I became a member)
Over here, townie is just the 'populars'. As I go to high school everyone lives in the same-ish area (I'm the exeption, my catchment school rarely gets anyone the grades I need for what I want to be so I went to one a bit further up the road. Anyway, townies are the ones who listen to whatever music is 'in' right now, eg now its rap and r&b (hate it), and act like sheep, eg dress the same/speak the same.

Sorry to go off topic btw!
Posted by thunder  in  England  on  Wed Jan 12, 2005  at  02:16 PM
It's all true, several shope do it.

The other thing they have done in one place is at a particular phone junction box that was a popular place to congregate in one town they painted the box (usually a dark green) bright pink. Same principle of people not wanting to be seen somewhere uncool
Posted by Beaker  on  Wed Jan 12, 2005  at  06:13 PM
Our bus driver is some retarded Nazi whore who listens to the country music station. Unfortunately, the station only plays the same 4 songs. One time she switched it to a classical station and we all breathed a deep sigh of relief. One of my friends said, "This is a lot better than that country station!" we were all relieved. I do not mind classical music. But I do mind country. And so do most of my friends, too.
Posted by John  on  Wed Jan 12, 2005  at  07:11 PM
Now using country music to keep people away would just be EVIL!
Posted by Rain  on  Wed Jan 12, 2005  at  07:36 PM
The technique of playing music to keep delinquents away -is- used successfully. I have personally visted a shopping centre which plays Bing Crosby at an extreme volume between the underground carpark and the cinema complex. On an earlier occasion I had seen youths there smoking cigarettes. Now, however, the music is so loud it hurts (unless you are already going deaf from night club dancing).
Posted by Sonja  on  Thu Jan 13, 2005  at  09:52 AM
I happen to love classical (since I was a teenager, too), but when I worked for Baskin-Robbins, I'd always flip to the Classical station a few minutes before the nearby high school got out for lunch.

The mob of students, while providing a good source of income, tended to also vandalize the store as well as occasionally steal things (random stuff, like the napkin dispensers, as well as the pre-packed quarts)) when nobody was looking. They even set one of the outside tables on fire once! (ok, just melted the edge with their lighters, but still...)

Turning to the Classical station really helped, though.. I'd have it nice and loud, making it *very* clear what the situation was.. And it worked. The troublemakers stopped coming and the borderline kids behaved themselves.
Posted by Bobcat  on  Tue Jan 18, 2005  at  12:41 AM
What's funny is I'm currently listening to Debussy as I write this post, and I was suppose to be at a Mozart Opera tonight, but I had a change of plans earlier in the day. I'm 21 and I love classical music. I've loved classical music since I was a little kid. Most of my college friends also love classical music. These stores would have some trouble keeping us away.
Posted by Razela  in  Chicago, IL  on  Sat Jan 22, 2005  at  11:51 PM
Have to laugh at this. We used to put Opera and Classical on our 160 watt system cranked up about half volume when the local teenagers got too rock happy. I was in highschool at the time and tended to listen to all types of music from Ancient Chant to Zydeco and thought it was kind of fun to do a Stereo Blast war. Amazing that Beethoven and Wagner could beat AC-DC and Iron Maiden any day of the week. My best friend liked Pat Benatar, my other friend was a died in the wool Van Halen/Ozzie fan, so it wasn't like I didn't like rock either.
Posted by martinelli  on  Sat Jan 29, 2005  at  05:11 PM
anyone heard of this being done in Canada at convenient stores or malls?
Posted by megan  on  Tue Jul 05, 2005  at  03:37 PM
It is done at Copenhagen Central Station, a lot of pushers and junkies were standing at the back-entrance, but after they started playing loud classical music they have moved (about 50 meters down the street).
Posted by Mikkel  on  Thu Sep 01, 2005  at  04:22 AM
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