Los Angeles has begun blasting loud classical music at a subway station downtown in a brazen attempt to deter the homeless and crack down on crime.
LA Metro operations and security, in cooperation with local law enforcement, began playing piano sonatas, symphony orchestra pieces, and concerts by Vivaldi, Beethoven, and Mozart at the Westlake/MacArthur Park metro station in January.
It was part of a safety pilot program that also includes modifications to security cameras and lighting, as well as the addition of more officers and “transit ambassadors” who connect homeless people in the subway system with resources.
Subway officials said the move was necessary because of a slew of drug overdoses, calls to police from transit customers and even a stabbing death in recent months as dozens of the city’s homeless have taken refuge in the subway system to protect themselves from inclement weather.
Although classical music is often thought of as peaceful, critics say it is a form of “psychological torture”, noting that high volumes may disrupt people’s thoughts and make them disengage.
Many homeless people have taken refuge in underground tunnels to protect themselves from the wild weather that has plagued California in recent months.
LA Metro officials began blasting classical music at Westlake/MacArthur Park in January in an effort to deter the homeless. A homeless man saw her at a metro station in 2016
in a statement to Los Angeles TimesLA Metro spokesperson Dave Sotero said classical music is used “to restore safety at the transit station” and “as a way to support an atmosphere conducive to short periods of time for transit customers who wait an average of five to 10 minutes for the next train to arrive.”
The move comes on the heels of 22 deaths from suspected overdoses on metro buses and trains in just the first three months of 2023, and after the system saw crime rise 24 percent last year.
So far, Metro officials say, music has led to an “improvement in public safety,” citing a 75 percent decrease in calls to emergency services, and a more than 50 percent reduction in vandalism, graffiti, and clean-up operations; And about 20% decrease in crime.
Sotero has claimed the music is “not loud”, saying that the compositions within the station are played at just 72dB.
He also claimed that the music in the station is quieter than walking on the sidewalk outside the station, which he said was over 80 decibels.
But Los Angeles Times reporters, using a portable decibel reader, found that only a few notes were ringing at 73 decibels, while the majority of the music was registering at an average of 83 decibels.
While some strings were booming, the sound peaked at 90dB thanks to the underground tunnel acoustics, though the volume shrank depending on where the person was standing in relation to the speakers.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts decibel levels between 80 and 85 on par for gas-powered lawn mowers and leaf blowers, and notes that hearing can be damaged two hours after exposure.
Metro officials said the move was necessary due to a slew of drug overdoses, calls to the police from transit customers and even a stabbing death at Westlake/MacArthur Park station (pictured here in 2017)
Metro officials said the music was ‘not loud’ but an investigation by the Los Angeles Times found much of the music was ringing at 83 decibels.
Some passengers are now calling for the music to be stopped, saying the constant concerts are ‘psychological torture’
The music got so loud, The Times reports, that when two police officers approached homeless people last Monday and tried to talk to them, someone had to put their hands to her ears to hear the officers’ demands.
Then he leaned close to the two homeless people and started screaming to hear the exploding symphony.
Meanwhile, outside the station, the newspaper’s reporters found that the surrounding street noise was only hovering at 72 decibels.
“We want it,” said traveler Cody Johnson, 31. Los Angeles Daily News Last month. “It’s driving us crazy.”
He said that the music has not changed in days, and it has become monotonous. Johnson also claimed that he believed the music had the opposite effect of what officials had hoped.
Musicologist Lilly Hirsch said that by using classical music, Metro seeks to attract more upscale residents while deterring the poor and homeless.
“Our blood pressure is going up,” he said. People get angry with this music. I don’t think it works.
In fact, loud music has been used throughout history as a form of torture – terrorists at Guantanamo Bay were forced to listen to hours of Metallica music.
Using classical music, musicologist Lilly Hirsch explains that the Los Angeles metro seeks to attract more upscale residents while deterring the poor and homeless.
“You’re trying to attract some people and make them feel comfortable based on an association with classical music,” she said.
“And you see that in fancy cheese shops playing classical music because they hope people will feel part of the elite world and then they will spend more money.”
At the same time, Hirsch, author of Music in American Crime Prevention and Punishment, said classical music will signal to low-income and homeless individuals that they are not welcome.
“It’s like a bird making its bounds when it hears the signal and goes, ‘Well, that’s not mine,'” she said. This is for the old money crowd.”
This technique seems to be working. There are examples of teens leaving an area where classical music is played, not because they don’t like the music, but because of the connections, Hirsch continued, citing 7-Eleven’s efforts to use classical music to deter loitering outside of Los Angeles. District stores.
Los Angeles has been plagued by an onslaught of homeless individuals. Shown here, a man walks past tents housing some homeless people in 2021
Critics say the Los Angeles metro plan does not address the root causes of homelessness
Homeless people are shown here lining the streets of Los Angeles in December
But when you use classical music for aggressive purposes, Hirsch says, it can feel miserable and scary.
One Twitter user even said that the intense string symphony that wafts through the station “really gives it that orange-orange feel,” referring to the psychological thriller.
Hirsch said that with the loudness at which the music is played, it makes anyone passing through Westlake/MacArthur Park station feel uneasy.
Experts say that constant exposure to this volume of music can disrupt sleep and thinking and make people feel isolated.
At a recent Los Angeles Metro Citizen Public Safety Committee meeting, one member said it was a “psychological torture chamber.”
Furthermore, critics say, loud music solves none of the root causes of the homeless epidemic plaguing California.
“The city must address homelessness and people with mental health issues,” said Hamid Khan, one of the organizers of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition. You can’t close your eyes and expect people to go away.
“The so-called hobo trains are an old American phenomenon,” he added.
About a third of the total homeless population in the United States – 171,521 people – are in California. This includes more than half of the country’s unsheltered homeless population, 115,491 people
The state of California, and especially Los Angeles, has been hardest hit by the homeless epidemic in America – with the largest number of homeless people recorded in the country.
A recent DailyMail.com review of US Department of Housing and Urban Development data found that about a third of the total homeless population in the US — 171,521 people — are in California. This includes more than half of the country’s unsheltered homeless population, 115,491 people.
The state also added 9,973 homeless people between 2020 and last year’s survey, and has the highest homelessness rate in the nation, with 44 people out of every 10,000 residents homeless.
The review found that Los Angeles was hardest hit, with 65,111 homeless people.