My friend Jim's great aunt. Photo was taken in Detroit, circa 1961.
Erin Rose
Positive Detroit Original

I feel it is time the City of Detroit got a little creative with their crime prevention tactics.  What is Einstein's definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

I stress this is not a knock on the Detroit Police Department, Chief Godbee, or Mayor Bing.  This article is about getting creative and taking a look at what other cities have successfully done to lower/prevent crime without spending a lot of money.  I know this is hard for some people to grasp, but throwing more money at the problem does not exactly solve it, nor does saturating the streets with police presence.

Recently an article in Business Week paints a very realistic portrait of what is happening within city limits:  Midtown crime rates are going down while crime in other neighborhoods is going up.

To make matters worse, someone over at the Detroit News stumbled upon Google Maps somewhere between their power hour of Solitaire and agonizing over crafting the perfect someecard for their Facebook page and created the "Deadliest Crime Map."  Nothing says "Visit Detroit" like an online interactive map with up to the minute pins marking the most recent crimes.  Thanks for continuing to be a great ambassador of the city, guys.  So very 'Pure Michigan' of you.

So it looks like it is high time we roll up our sleeves, take matters into our own hands, and do something about this (and give certain publications some other uses for the internets).

Now before I present this list to you, I want to point out that there is no direct reliance on the said city government being solely responsible for the change.  It was a partnership and collective effort between residents, business owners, and the city government.  So instead of whining about Detroit's lack of funds and continuing to beat a dead horse, let's band together and make a change.

All in favor, read on.

Here is my list of three Creative, Inexpensive, and PROVEN ways Detroit can start lowering crime today:

1.  Play Classical Music

I see that eyebrow raise. Cue Gary Coleman's famous line, "Whatcha talkin' about, Willis?"

Playing classical music deters crime you ask.

The answer is a resounding "Yes."

Below are real world success stories to prove it.  Above is a video from the Library of Congress in D.C explaining the psychology behind it.  

2011, Los Angeles California  - Mayor R. Rex Pariss had 70 speakers installed along a half mile of Lancaster Blvd and for five hours a day, played a blend of classical music and bird songs (birds chirping).  Mayor Pariss believed the bird song and music combination would calm citizens and essentially deter crime.

After 10 months of playing the bird song/classical music combination:
  • Minor crimes fell 15%.
  • Major crimes fell 6%.
  • Maria Elena Grado, who runs the Lemon Leaf Café, says the area was "crime infested" when she opened in 2006. "Everybody laughed at the idea, but people don't even realize the things that make them tick."
2004, London England -  British Transport Police played classical music over loudspeakers in the most dangerous parts of London Underground stations.

After 6 months:
  • Robberies dropped by 33%.
  • Assaults on staff by 25%.
  • Vandalism of trains and stations by 37%.
2001, West Palm Beach Florida - Police mounted a CD player and speakers on an abandoned building and piped Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven 24 hours a day after Sgt. Ron Ghianda had learned about music being used for nuisance abatement in Texas at a seminar.

The corner had been a problem for 15 years and police occasionally increased patrols in the area for weeks at a time. Police Chief Ric Bradshaw demanded a permanent solution after a murder in the area in March.

They spent less than $500 for a CD player and speakers. The department also installed better lighting and cut down trees that provided shade in the daytime.

  • Drug-related calls dropped to four from February through June, compared to 20 during the same period in 2000, according to the police department.
  • Calls for service were down to 83 from 119 last year during those five months. 
  • According to Mamie Durham, 80, a 60-year resident of the neighborhood, "If someone ever told me Tamarind would look like this I wouldn't believe them. I remember when you used to have to walk in the street because (loiterers would) be on the sidewalk. It's cleaned up." 
Playing classical music also has deterred gangs of youth from hanging outside stores, reports of troublemakers and graffiti were dramatically reduced, according to a supermarket chain in the UK.

"It is mostly easy listening music that we are playing such as Bach, Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi and Mozart. It is a novel concept, but it does work and does move people on," said regional loss prevention manager Steve Hogarth. "The fact that youths hang outside the store is not a crime in itself, but the perception among staff and customers is that it is intimidating. It seems to make it a 'less cool' place to hang out if there is classical music playing."

Note: Studies conclude that the most effective classical music is from the Baroque period

Just imagine Detroit with the sounds of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra pouring into the streets.  They even make it convenient and inexpensive with their new app! Maybe this could be a new twist on the DIA's Inside|Out Exhibit and showcase different DSO concerts throughout the city.  Hmmm......

For those of you with a sense of humor:  Bust out the Barry Manilow.  Our friends from down under in Australia discovered that playing the sweet sounds of Barry on loop is unbearable to the ears of "delinquent  youth." It has officially been dubbed as the "Manilow Method."  So clear the cobwebs off your ghetto blaster and soon you will be humming this line with a smile "Well, you came and you gave without taking, but I sent you away, oh Mandy....."

2. Plant More Urban Farms

Oh, here is something Detroit is getting really good at!

In 2000, 54,000 lots were vacant in Philadelphia. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society reclaimed 4,400 (8% of the existing vacant lots) planted trees and gardens along with erecting 3ft fences.

Over a 10 year span, The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society beautification and farming project:
  • Reduced shootings in the areas surrounding these lots.
  • People become more in touch with their neighbors and felt more connected with each other.
  • Calls from neighbors complaining of nuisance crimes (loitering, public urination, excessive noise) went up significantly in the immediate vicinity of the newly greened land, something that had not happened in the past.
  • Research has shown that if you diminish violence, people will be less stressed, and less-stressed people eat healthier.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has begun to look at greening as a tool for violence prevention.
This is also helping to combat violence in schools.  Principal Myra Sampson of Community Alternative Academy on Chicago's West-Side had a garden built to help squash the gun violence occurring at her school.  The garden has become a place where students AND the community come together. The dramatic increase of students becoming invested in each other and the project has led to Sampson to request 10 more vacant lots adjacent to her to school to be turned over for more urban garden and orchard projects. 

3.  Make Streets More Walkable

Photo From Wayne State University 

At the end of 2009, Rotterdam (Netherlands) police created an experimental project called "The Neighbourhood Takes Charge." 

This was a joint effort between the police and local residents, encouraging them to draw up a list of things that they wanted to see improved to make their community safer and happier.

The police then spent 16 hours per week solving the issues that were most important to local tax-payers.

Police of course expected local citizens to list the more serious crimes, like burglary or drugs, at top of the list.

To their surprise, these three items were the most popular:
  1. Street cleaning.
  2. Dog mess.
  3. Reducing traffic speeds. 
Nearly all of the most popular suggestions involved improving the street environment and making streets more walk-friendly.

Rather than neglecting serious crimes, they actually saw some dramatic reductions in all sorts of crime over a two year period.  The UK Government took note and sent the Policing Minister to Holland to see if this new approach could work in the UK.
  • Drug crime dropped by 30%.
  • Burglary dropped by 22%.
  • Vandalism dropped by 31%.
  • Traffic offences dropped by 19%.
  • Theft dropped by 11%.
  • Violence dropped by 8%.


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