Sun
Mar 10 2013 10:00am

Baroque in Windows Policing: Music and Crime Prevention

Better Step Off, Youngbloods: VIvaldi Will Play This!Hearing a lot of classical music in the parking garages or on the drug dealers’ corner lately? (Hey, how do you know what’s playing on the druggie corner?) If you wondered why—hypothetically, of course— you might be interested in the video of a presentation hosted at the Library of Congress.

Music and the Brain: Music, Criminal Behavior, and Crime Prevention has introductory remarks and real-world examples from Norman Middleton of the LoC’s Music Division. Spinning deep into the album cuts re: divergent subcultures and hypermasculinity is expert guest Dr. Jacqueline Helfgott, Chair of the Criminal Justice Department at Seattle University. From the YouTube description:

A fascinating discussion of the use of classical music by law enforcement and other cultural institutions as social control, to quell and prevent crime. Their conversation touches on how classical music is viewed in contemporary culture, how it can be a tool for discouraging criminal activity and antisocial behavior, as well as its history as a mind-altering experience.

Befitting its venue, the program is somewhat lengthy and academic, but so worthwhile if you want some contextualizing within criminological theory (yes—for the double jargon-score!). And behold one of the actual presentation slides:

As long as royalties are paid, Barry can laugh all the way to the bank. And, of course, if his music really does squelch youthful excitability, he’s a cop’s best friend. That’s got to be good for a speeding ticket or two, right?

Dr. Helfgott goes on to discuss the more controversial implications of the approach and whether it does harm to the listener (shades of A Clockwork Orange?) or perhaps even to the legacy and value of the composition to employ music for this purpose. As she points out, “...we all have a media-mediated understanding of crime, and media and pop culture and aesthetics and style has a lot more to do with crime and how we respond to it as a society than we all think about.”

So, go watch and get brainy!


Despite Clare Toohey’s checkered past in art and music, she gives store-bought greeting cards and plays the ukulele poorly. As a writer, she aspires to genre hack-dom, and as a fan, appreciates both the trashy and inventive. She’s the site editor and manager of CriminalElement.com, Tweeting @clare2e and blogging more foolishness at WomenofMystery.net

See all of Clare Toohey’s posts at Criminal Element.

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2 comments
1. Elsandra
We've been know to play classical, tribal, or arabic music when we have juveniles detained. My sgt cranks it up really loud!
Clare Toohey
2. clare2e
That's hilarious, Elsandra! Real world confirmation!
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