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LA blasts classical music to curb homelessness crisis, 'restore safety at the transit station'

Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Los Angeles officials have decided to take a new approach to curb the city’s homelessness crisis by blasting the works of Beethoven, Mozart, Vivaldi, and other classical composers in the subway station in hopes that it will deter people from loitering and creating makeshift shelters.

The LA Metro’s pilot program for reducing the number of unhoused people in the area includes playing piano sonatas, symphony orchestra pieces, and concertos. It also adds floodlights at either end of the station platform in an effort to drive away homeless people and reduce crime.

So far this year, 22 individuals have died from suspected overdoses on Metro transportation, according to the Los Angeles Times. Additionally, rape, aggravated assault, and robbery were up 24% in 2022 compared to the previous year.

LA Metro operations and security, along with local law enforcement, began implementing the new approach in January.

Some critics argue that the tactics are inhumane torture, while others state that the efforts fail to address the root cause of LA’s homelessness crisis.

Musicologist Lily E. Hirsch told the Times that the strategy will do nothing to reduce the city’s unhoused problem but is “creating hierarchies of sound.” She explained that music could be used to attract or drive away specific individuals.

“You’re trying to attract and make certain people feel comfortable based on the associations with classical music,” Hirsch stated. “And you see that in fancy cheese shops that play classical music because they hope people will feel like they’re a part of some elite upscale world and then they’ll spend more money.”

“And you’re not solving the problem,” she continued. “You’re just pushing the problem to another spot.”

A spokesperson for LA Metro, Dave Sotero, told the Times that “the music is not loud,” claiming that inside the station the music is being played at 72 decibels. However, the Times found that some subway stops averaged 83 decibels and peaked at 90.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the sound of lawnmowers and leaf blowers is approximately between 80 to 85 decibels. After two hours or more of exposure, those levels can cause hearing damage, the CDC states.

Sotero told the news outlet that the pilot program is being utilized to “restore safety at the transit station.” In addition, he noted that the strategy manages to “support an atmosphere appropriate for spending short periods of time for transit customers who wait an average of 5 to 10 minutes for the next train to arrive.”

Sotero claimed that the tactics have already resulted in a “75 percent reduction in calls for emergency service, an over 50 percent reduction in vandalism, graffiti and cleanups, and a nearly 20 percent drop in crime.”

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