Ode to the Ob­nox­ious: Exit mu­sic for gangs

The Washington Times Weekly - - Page Two -

TA­COMA, Wash. (AP) — City au­thor­i­ties, fed up with gang ac­tiv­ity in pub­lic places, are tak­ing Bach their bus stop.

Tran­sit work­ers in­stalled speak­ers last week to pump classical mu­sic from Seat­tle’s KINGFM into the Ta­coma Mall Tran­sit Cen­ter. The tac­tic is de­signed to dis­perse young crim­i­nals who make drug deals at the bus stop or use pub­lic trans­porta­tion to cir­cu­late be­tween the mall and other trou­ble-prone places.

The at­tack by Bach, Brahms and Beethoven fol­lows the the­ory that prompted the city to stage pinochle games on dan­ger­ous street cor­ners: Jolt­ing the rou­tine in such spots throws crim­i­nals off bal­ance.

“It’s based on rou­tine ac­tiv­ity the­ory and sit­u­a­tional crime pre­ven­tion. You mix dif­fer­ent types of ac­tiv­i­ties in lo­ca­tions that are crime-rid­den to change the com­po­si­tion of the en­vi­ron­ment,” said psy­chol­o­gist Jac­que­line Helf­gott, who chairs the Crim­i­nal Jus­tice De­part­ment at Seat­tle Univer­sity.

Skep­tics in­clude Tony Wil­son, a bus driver for 18 years.

“It could do one of two things: It could calm the beast, or it could just stir things up,” Wil­son said. “I think the rea­son we don’t have mu­sic on the buses is that you can’t please ev­ery­one. It would just cause drama.”

If the stream of di­ver­ti­men­tos, scher­zos and polon­aises re­duces dis­or­der at the mall, speak­ers may be in­stalled at more bus stops, said Rod Baker, chief of pub­lic safety for Pierce Tran­sit.

“We want to cre­ate an at­mos­phere that is safe for our pas­sen­gers,” Baker said. “If this has an im­pact on en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to move else­where in­stead of hang­ing around and loi­ter­ing around an area, then why not?”

Vrah­mel Oblea­nis, 19, play­ing a Nin­tendo GameBoy at the mall bus stop, said trou­ble­mak­ers won’t like the or­ches­tral strains, but they’ll prob­a­bly just move some­where out of earshot.

“They’ll say, ‘This is whack,’ and go over and hang out at the mall or by Ba­bies ‘R’ Us,” Oblea­nis said. “The mu­sic isn’t go­ing to change the at­ti­tude of the kids.”

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