Mozart helping deter loiterers

By Jennifer O'Brien
The London Free Press

Borrowing a page from the convenience store industry, London's largest downtown landlord is piping out classical music from the building housing the city's welfare office to drive away drug dealers and other unwanted loiterers.

So far, Mozart and Beethoven have been excellent security guards for the entrance of Market Tower, at the southwest corner of Richmond and Dundas streets, notorious for loiterers.

Market Tower landlord Shmuel Farhi said he's been playing classical music from CDs into the street for a couple of weeks now, to try to clear suspected drug dealers from outside his building.

"It's not a secret that the Dundas and Richmond corner is (known) for drug dealing. We have to do everything in our power to move the traffic there,"

said Farhi, who's also asked the city to move the bus stops from the busy intersection as a pilot project.

"It's my building, and health and safety is very important to us. We want to deter people from doing illegal transactions," he said. "And I love classical music."

But not everyone shares his taste in music.

The traditionally clogged corner entrance seemed to have fewer loiters this week. The music could be heard from the coffee shop across the street.

"We know that it's having a direct impact in terms of keeping loiterers away from that corner," said London police Const. Dennis Rivest. "Our sergeant in foot patrol said . . . the music does discourage loitering by youth,"

Asked if the music violates the city's noise bylaw, bylaw enforcement boss Orest Katolyk said he hasn't heard any complaints.

"If we did get a complaint, we'd look into it, but at this point all the complaints we ever get about that corner have come from the other side - about the loitering," he said. "It's a proven theory that if you play classical music where there is loitering, the loitering seems to move to another area."

For some passersby, the classical notes provide lively ambiance to the area - as they have for months just a few blocks away, outside the Central Library.

The library started piping out classical music last summer for the same reason. Pedestrians there must pass through some Tchaikovsky - but few loitering smokers - to get into the library's Dundas St. entrance.

The idea isn't exclusive to London: Many businesses, especially in the convenience store industry in the U.S., have employed classical music sound systems for years to discourage unwanted gatherings of teens and others at their doorsteps.

Farhi said he hasn't heard any complaints about the music so far. Not that he cares.

"If people complain about it, I turn it up," he said, adding he hopes to inspire passersby with his CDs.

"Classical music is good for the heart and soul," he said. "I'm a lover not a fighter, and I want to put classical music to everyone downtown."

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Market tower. (QMI Agency file photo)

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