Can Classical Music Curb Crime?

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Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Bach. What do these musicians all have in common? Aside from being classical composers, police in London believe their music has the ability to curb crime.

It’s been theorized for centuries that music can have powerful physiological effects on human beings. In 2016, a German study was able to prove that music from classical composers like Mozart was able to lower both blood pressure and heart rate in all of the test subjects. While the reasons behind this calming effect classical music seems to induce in humans is not entirely understood, police are now hoping that this calming effect brought on by the music can also help deter crime.

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This isn’t the first time authorities have attempted to use the power of music in high-crime areas. In 2011, The LA Times reported that many private businesses such as restaurants and shopping malls have found that playing classical music tends to chase off loitering teens. Railway stations have also taken to playing the music of classical composers to discourage loitering.

London police believe that the music has the ability to discourage more than just loitering after witnessing the downtrend in crime after playing music at places criminals are drawn to such as shopping malls and bus stations. Aside from the known physiological effects the music has on listeners, a story published by WQXR suggests there might be another reason for the downtrend in crimes.

Jacquelin Helfgott, chair of the criminal justice department at Seattle University, “believes classical music is historically associated with ‘a cultural aesthetic that is pro-social as opposed to antisocial,’ making it a preferred crime prevention tool. Put another way, rowdy teenagers don’t find classical very cool.”

Helfgott also points out that while the music could play a part in the decrease in crime in areas that pump out classical music, there are often other known crime prevention techniques being utilized simultaneously, such as adequate lighting and trimmed hedges.

While London police are hopeful that playing classical music in areas of the city overrun by crime will have favorable outcomes, there are many still skeptical of the approach. Joseph Giacalone, a former NYPD detective and professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice told the NY Post, “If playing Mozart would solve crime, it would have been used since the 1700s.”

In addition to playing the classical music, police also have plans to pull the plug on public electrical outlets that are often utilized by gang members and drug dealers to charge their phones. Ultimately the idea is the fewer gangs and general troublemakers who want to hang around the fewer crimes there will be committed in those areas. At this point, the verdict is still out and only time will tell if their plan is a success.