Classical Music Wielded to Fight Crime in Oregon

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April 2, 2011; Source: The Palm Beach Post | As if proponents of classical music weren’t already challenged to attract younger audiences, law enforcement officials in Gresham, Ore. have added a new hurdle to jump. It’s not exactly what your local nonprofit symphony wants to hear in these tough times.

Drawing on U.S. military success in flushing Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega from his mansion with a constant barrage of hard rock music, Gresham police have been blasting high decibel classical music to discourage crime at a troubled mass transit stop since November. After several months of experience, frequent rider Scott Neilson reports that now “there’s no one that just hangs around.”

The “classical blast” strategy is not entirely new, and crime theorists aren’t convinced it will actually deter crime. In 2001, police in West Palm Beach, Fla. discontinued a similar initiative after just three weeks, deeming it a flop. However in Sacramento, small business owner Hakim Singh reports that he has used high volume classical music to deter loitering outside his store for three years.

Gresham’s initial classical music blast was designed as a $500 pilot project for a single light transit stop. A bill is now moving through the Oregon legislature to expand the program to all high-crime light rail stops in the Portland metropolitan area.

What’s a local symphony, opera, or chamber quartet to do?—Kathi Jaworski