Does classical music at transit stations really help deter crime?

In an effort to reduce crime, Metro Transit staff now pipes in classical music at the Lake St. LRT station.
In an effort to reduce crime, Metro Transit staff now pipes in classical music at the Lake St. LRT station.

Does playing classical music at busy transit stations really help deter crime?

Some of you may remember when classical music played from speakers above the bustling Block E bus stop years ago. And now Metro Transit is adopting that tactic again at the Lake Street LRT station following complaints from neighborhood residents last summer that the station was becoming a haven for rowdy teens and vagrants.

While correlation doesn't equal causation, an analysis by the Atlantic suggests the strategy has had its desired effect for numerous cities.

In London, city staff started playing classical music in dozens of stations in 2003. Within 18 months, robberies dropped by a third, staff assaults by a quarter, and vandalism by 37 percent.

Portland serves as a closer-to-home example. The city began piping classical music at a high-crime light rail station in late 2010. In a short period of time police calls at the station declined by 40 percent?

What explains the correlation between classical music and a decrease in crime? The Atlantic suggests the explanation has something to do with the famous "broken window" experiment in psychology. That experiment showed that abandoned cars with a shattered window were stripped much quicker than in-tact cars, suggesting that a culture of order and maintenance dissuades reckless and criminal behavior. Or maybe the explanation just boils down to the fact that classical music soothes the nerves and makes people less inclined to act out in criminal ways.

Whatever the explanation, it's not like Metro Transit has much to lose by subjecting folks to Beethoven, Bach, and Strauss while they wait for the train. All it took to purchase the music was a $150 payment. If the music deters even one serious crime, it's money well spent.

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