Rachmanin-off and don't come Bach – shop plans musical deterrent for youths

IT WILL be music to the ears of residents plagued by vandalism and anti-social behaviour – a Scottish supermarket is to blast out Beethoven and Mozart in a bid to deter loitering teenagers.

Staff at the Co-op in Port Seton, East Lothian, plan to rig up speakers to play classical tunes to put off the groups of youths who are congregating around its doors at night.

Locals claim they are frightened to walk near the shop to use the cash machines.

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Now councillors and local clergy have voiced approval at the idea, saying it may even have a calming effect on troublemakers, more used to hip-hop and dance music.

The supermarket managers aired the idea at a meeting in an attempt to address the problem of youth disorder.

The Community and Police Partnership meeting heard proposals to rig up a stereo in the store that would play classical music on a loop.

Yesterday, Margaret Libberton, a local councillor, said she backed the scheme: "It has been scientifically proven that classical music can have a calming effect on people."

Isobel Black, a Port Seton community councillor, said: "There was talk of the store using a music player for classical tunes. I don't see any problem with this idea. It seems harmless enough to me."

The idea is one of a number of methods being deployed by shop owners to deter gangs of teenagers.

Tyne and Wear Metro was one of the first to recognise the pacifying force of composers when, inspired by the success of schemes operating in Canada, it began playing classical music at some outlying stations.

High-pitched "mosquito" devices that buzz at a frequency audible and irritating only to teenagers – driving them to move on – have also been adopted by retailers.

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However, the devices have caused controversy in England, where Professor Sir Albert Aynsley-Green, the Children's Commissioner, called for a ban on them.

He claimed they infringed the rights of children and youths by targeting them indiscriminately, whether they were behaving or not.

A spokesman for the British Retail Consortium said the use of classical music was becoming increasingly common.

"From reports we have received, playing classical music has seen some success. I think it comes down to young people feeling that the music is uncool and they don't want to be associated with it so they move off.

"The issue of retail crime is a serious one for our members and, while it is not always young people involved in it, if gangs are hanging around shop fronts, it can lead to it.

"Also, there is the fact that they can be bad for business by putting off customers."

He added: "Retailers have a big responsibility to reduce the impact, both financial and personal, of crime and anti-social behaviour on their premises.

"They spend 800 million a year trying to combat it, whether that's through CCTV or security staff, and this is another means by which to tackle it."

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A high-profile use of classical music saw the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art set up speakers blasting symphonies into Royal Exchange Square in 2004, to try to discourage the large groups of goths and skaters who hang around there.

Though initially successful, the teenagers reappeared when it ceased.

But last night, one Port Seton resident rubbished the scheme, arguing more sophisticated methods were required to tackle anti-social behaviour.

He said: "They'd probably just try and smash the speakers, or drown it out with their mobiles.

"If tackling anti-social behaviour was as easy as sticking on a bit of classical music, Beethoven would be number one in the download chart."

A spokeswoman for Lothian, Borders & Angus Co-operative Society said the store was studying the proposal.

She said: "The society is still considering several possible remedies to the problems presented by young people loitering in the shop doorway at Port Seton. Playing classical music is just one of them but as yet no decisions have been made."

TOP TUNES TO SEE OFF TROUBLE

• Deep-Fried Mars from 'Planets' Sweet – Gustav Holst

• The Blue Download – Johann Strauss jnr

• Four Seasons Pizza (to go) – Antonio Vivaldi

• Air on the Visible G String – Johann Sebastian Bach

• The Pure Dead Magic Flute – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

• Clair de loon – Claude Debussy