City Uses Bird Recordings To Reduce Crime

In Lancaster California (population 157,000) Mayor R. Rex Parris has installed 70 speakers along a half mile stretch of a city street and for the past 10 months has played bird songs blended with mellow synthesizer tones, five hours a day.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, the Mayor believes the bird song and music calm citizens by fine-tuning brain chemicals. The chirps subconsciously discourage criminality, Mr. Parris says: “Everybody is now in a better mood, a better place.” “We’re not seeing that impulse-control crime,” Mr. Parris says. “It has just been astonishing to us how the community has changed as a result of a one-half-mile stretch.”

Laura Dugan, an associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Maryland, says public officials often claim their initiatives reduce crime, but without sufficient evidence for their assertions. “There’s also a drop in crime in every other major and minor city, so just because somebody tries something and you see a drop in crime, it doesn’t mean it necessarily caused it,” Ms. Dugan says of Lancaster’s piped-in birds.

Many locals believe in the birds. Maria Elena Grado, who runs the Lemon Leaf Café near speakers playing the bird music, says the area was “crime infested” when she opened in 2006. The birds, and a broader upgrade of the area, have had a positive impact on the demeanor of customers, she says. “Everybody laughed at the idea, but people don’t even realize the things that make them tick.”

You can hear a brief example of what is being played over the speakers in Lancaster California at the Wall Street Journal article.

In London classical music is played through the subway system as a way to create a calm mood. Does playing bird sounds make sense to you or is this a crazy idea?


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Stephen Peteritas

Very cool blog. I can’t help but wonder the looks from everyone else in the meeting when somebody stood up and said “you know I really think bird music will reduce crime”. Just goes to show that bold ideas are worth the risk.

Jeffrey J Kontur

Even if there is no direct causal relationship, this sounds to me like a relatively low cost government initiative. The article implies that it’s relatively popular with the town’s citizens so I’d say it’s worthwhile even if it had no actual effect on crime.

Jay Johnson

Interesting idea, but I agree that it is almost impossible to prove how effective it is. But like Jeffrey said, it is low cost and definately doesn’t hurt anything.

Janina Rey Echols Harrison

I love the idea. I live and work in a rural area. If I am haggard or upset, I can go outside where it is calm and quiet and listen to the birds. I find it very soothing. Sounds definitely affect our brains and development. I read a study not long ago that recommended listening to classical or punk music to build brain matter. There are many studies that could support this.