Imagine you are a member of a ruthless gang. You’re about to head down to the subway stop and cause some trouble but as you walk through the station, you decide that this is not the place to commit your crime. You can’t put your finger on why, but you leave knowing that this area is not prime for your crime.
Whatever this deterrent is, I’m pretty sure almost everyone would be in favor of it. Something that is aimed at cutting down crime in an area where suspicious activities thrive is typically seen as a good thing.
But what if this deterrent was classical music?
In cities around the world, officials are starting to use music, and mostly classical music, as a way to prevent crime in dangerous areas. Certain bus stops and train stops in New York are tuning in to the sounds of Bach, Mozart and even baroque music; Paris is testing this new trend and allowing commuters to vote on the music selection; and even smaller cities such as Cleveland have used the sweet sounds of Vivaldi to reportedly force drug dealers out of a YMCA parking lot.
As an arts lover, this trend is fascinating on a number of levels, but it also tears my heart two different ways.
On one hand, preventing crime is great. I am definitely anti-crime. I also am a huge proponent of using the arts to make a community better and safer. But at the same time, specifically using the arts as a tool for repelling unwanted persons from an area hits on a different chord in my soul.
One of the reasons I fight so hard to further the role of the arts in communities everywhere is because I believe that the arts are for everyone. I believe that the arts industry needs to do everything it can to eliminate the stigma of “elitism” that often comes with opera, ballet and classical music. All art should be accessible to everyone. So in that light, is using classical music (or any non-popular music for that matter) as a social repellent a good idea? Is using the negative “elitist” label given to classical music worth exploiting in the name of safety? Are we only putting more distance between our art, culture and our music’s history, and those individuals whom we are simultaneously trying to bring closer to the arts?
Do we just give up on music from the baroque and classical eras and admit that criminals (specifically younger criminals) just hate the very music that forms our modern tunes?
I don’t know the answer to any of these questions. There have not been any scientific studies to prove or disprove the success of classical music as a crime/loitering deterrent, or any music for that matter (do we just have blast a horn every 15min and get the same effect?), so coming to a final conclusion is hard to do. I’m pro-social environments, I’m anti-crime, and I’m 100% behind using the arts to make a community better. But is the exploitation of a public misperception I try every day to correct something I should support?