City authorities, fed up with gang activity in public places, are taking Bach their bus stop.
Transit workers are installing speakers this week to pump classical music from Seattle’s KING-FM into the Tacoma Mall Transit Center. The tactic is designed to disperse young criminals who make drug deals at the bus stop or use public transportation to circulate between the mall and other trouble-prone places.
The attack by Bach, Brahms and Beethoven follows the theory that prompted the city to stage pinochle games on dangerous street corners: Jolting the routine in such spots throws criminals off balance.
"It’s based on routine activity theory and situational crime prevention. You mix different types of activities in locations that are crime-ridden to change the composition of the environment," said psychologist Jacqueline Helfgott, who chairs the Criminal Justice Department at Seattle University.
Skeptics include Tony Wilson, a bus driver for 18 years.
"It could do one of two things: It could calm the beast, or it could just stir things up," Wilson said. "I think the reason we don’t have music on the buses is that you can’t please everyone. It would just cause drama."
If the stream of divertimentos, scherzos and polonaises reduces disorder at the mall, speakers may be installed at more bus stops, said Rod Baker, chief of public safety for Pierce Transit.
"We want to create an atmosphere that is safe for our passengers," Baker said. "If this has an impact on encouraging people to move elsewhere instead of hanging around and loitering around an area, then why not?"
Vrahmel Obleanis, 19, playing a Nintendo GameBoy at the mall bus stop, said troublemakers won’t like the orchestral strains, but they’ll probably just move somewhere out of earshot.
"They’ll say, ‘This is whack,’ and go over and hang out at the mall or by Babies ‘R’ Us," Obleanis said. "The music isn’t going to change the attitude of the kids."