Column Date 2009-10-13

Crime wave? Call Mozart.

The solution to crime in America is staring us right in the face, if only we're smart enough to recognize it.

Now this is a radical, somewhat bizarre solution and you've got to cast off your prejudices and approach it with a completely open mind. Here it is:

Music can reduce our crime rate. That's right, music. This is not some pie-in-the-sky, academic theory -- it's been tested in England, and it works.

"Aural Policing," they call it over there. They've already installed it in the London Underground, where thirty tube stations now play Mozart and Haydn over their loudspeakers. This kind of music, for some reason, seems to deter vandals and stops people from loitering around the stations. And, as a result, the crime rate goes down.

And which musical selections drive people away most effectively? "Anything sung by Luciano Pavarotti, and anything written by Mozart," a spokesman for London Transport said.

According to Adrian North, a psychologist at Leicester University, the reason this works is "unfamiliarity." In other words, when people are unfamiliar with certain music, they feel uncomfortable and leave. So if a would-be criminal loves hip-hop music, for instance, Mozart will make him crazy and he'll leave the scene of the potential crime.

What we have here, friends, is possibly the ultimate self-protection weapon in history. Who needs handguns or knives or assault weapons when we've got music?

Just think of it: by merely carrying around your iPod with a couple of those tiny, portable speakers, you can blast out grand opera and classical music and be safe and secure no matter where you go.

Walking in a dangerous neighborhood at 2 AM? Flip on some Verdi or Puccini. A few arias from 'Traviata' or 'Gianni Schicchi' will clear the street for blocks.

Worried about those large guys lurking around your ATM machine? Turn up the volume on some 20th-century electronic music, like John Cage, and watch the felons scatter!

Hopefully, the folks at the Pentagon are watching all this carefully.

To help them out in this tight budget year, I priced a 1,500-watt stereo, that can easily be jeep-mounted, at around $850, including a six-CD changer and really loud superwoofers. A few jeeps like this could form a "Beethoven Brigade" and clear out a hostile village in an hour.

"Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast," wrote William Congreve, the 17th-century playwright.

Now we know that music can also drive the savages right out of our neighborhood.

(c) 2009 Peter Tannen