Classical music helps keep loiterers moving


Columbus Dispatch


On a recent Tuesday evening, two men were arguing on the sidewalk outside the Downtown YMCA.

As the exchange grew more heated, Sue Darby turned up the volume on a set of speakers affixed to the building exterior.

The defuser: Antonio Vivaldi.

The delicate orchestral strains of the Four Seasons concertos prompted the opponents to walk away.

“I feel like it’s a positive approach,” said Darby, executive director of the Y, at 40 W. Long St. “People don’t tend to stand around. There’s a sense of security.”

Since January at the Y, an iPod loaded with classical music has played repeatedly from 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily.

The speakers on the building were donated by the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District, which represents Downtown property owners.

Although such a soundtrack might be regarded as a pleasant diversion — a welcome cultural boost, even — by many people, another motive is at play.

The music is designed as a social deterrent.

A recent survey of Y fitness-center members revealed concerns about sidewalk loitering, which the 400 residents of the facility aren’t allowed to do. A rooming house across the street and an adjacent mental-health center sometimes exacerbate the clusters, Darby said.

The unorthodox sonic approach isn’t new.

Some Short North residents have come to know the classical repertoire blasting outside the United Dairy Farmers store at 900 N. High St.

Although a manager on duty said the practice, about a year old, has “done what it’s supposed to do,” shopper Daveione Fluellen said he continues to see panhandlers hanging around.

Still, “It’s peaceful,” said Fluellen, 20, as a Mozart selection played in the background. Cleve Ricksecker, who lives in Victorian Village, considers the classical sounds a blessing.

“They used to have what appeared to be some petty drug dealers hanging out in front” of the convenience store, said Ricksecker, executive director of both the Capital Crossroads and Discovery special-improvement districts.

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