How do you sweep crime from L.A.’s streets? With the lusty shrieks of a male songbird.
The mayor of Lancaster, Calif. swears that the sound of tweeting blackbirds, wrens and robins has deterred potential criminals in his town. “Everybody is now in a better mood, a better place,” R. Rex Parris told the Wall Street Journal. He says chirping noises along the city’s main drag have reduced crime in the area.
Is the bird-loving mayor a latter-day John Keats? Hardly. Gone is the nightingale – Lancaster’s improvement is owed to a loudspeaker. Or rather seventy loudspeakers, blasting birdsong blended with synth tones five hours every day for the past 10 months.
Minor misdeeds in the city dropped 15% last year, while serious crimes fell 6%. But not everyone believes it’s down to the winged warblers. “Just because somebody tries something and you see a drop in crime, it doesn’t mean it necessarily caused it,” says Laura Dugan, an associate professor of criminology at the University of Maryland.
But Mayor Parris is a believer. After first trying out a recording of birds from his backyard, he went to the land of the dawn chorus, commissioning a birdsong mashup from a London sound consultant, who says the sounds can ease the body’s response to stress.
This isn’t the first instance of auditory crime control. The London Underground broadcasts classical music in the hopes of soothing ne’er-do-wells. Because that worked so well in A Clockwork Orange.