Roots of Revitalization

Social Change Through Action In Pottstown PA

“Pottstown Is Alive With The Sound of Music” October 8, 2011

Perhaps you have been downtown lately to go shopping or eat at one of the local restaurants and have heard music on High Street? The Pottstown Downtown Improvement District Authority (PDIDA) Board is working with the Mayor, Police and Safety Committee to see what other measures can be taken to make the downtown safer and more appealing to business investors and patrons alike! Unfortunately crime is higher in Pottstown than it should be, especially for a small town of its size.  Blame it on poverty or the recession or whatever, but the delinquency needs to be addressed. Some of the loiterers downtown are mentally ill, and of course are not criminals, and the county has day programs they can attend to get them off of the streets.  People who have money to spend in Pottstowns stores and eateries need to feel safe when they are in the downtown business area.  The technical term is “Crime Prevention through Environmental Design” which is not a new social reform program, but is new to Pottstown.  Progressive agendas like this are necessary to rid the downtown of vagrancy, drug dealing, muggings and panhandling.  The overall plan is once the auditory program develops different musical variations will be played such as jazz.  .

The Seattle Times says: “Businesses and transportation systems use instrumental music as a crime-fighting tool around the globe.Several Canadian cities began pumping classical and opera music from speakers in public places, such as subway platforms, to keep people from loitering. London plays classical music in 65 of its Underground stations, drawing compliments from some commuters and transit workers, according to a Transport for London spokeswoman”.

In Portland, Oregon, Police Lt. John Scruggs brought the concept of playing opera, chamber music, and choral pieces, (music requiring full orchestras), to the attention of his superiors and it has aided in making that city safer. 

Dr. Daniel Levitin, professor of psychology and neuroscience at McGill University in Montreal believes that such “musical mind games”, the use of music as a crime-fighting tool is a simple but ingenious approach.

Sheila Dugan, the PDIDA chairman stated, “There was a decision made to start a progressive movement in town to get rid of some of the vagrancy issues we face daily here in the downtown – with NO COST to taxpayers – studies have shown that classical and opera will drive such away – IT WORKED!  Our fist day we had many loiterers hanging around just  minutes before we put the music on, with in a half hour of putting the music on, the streets began to clear – many merchants were amazed (as were we!) but it did work!  At 5:30 the music was turned off and by 7:15  several of the vagrants had found their way back to the benches in town. Yes, it is just the beginning of many steps necessary to keep our streets free of such activities – yes, there are kinks that we need to fix – Regularly we will be out looking at every speaker, its direction and what we can do to resolve the sound level issues. The equipment is a bit antiquated, but we feel we can resolve these issues quickly and at little to no cost to PDIDA.”

Sheila Dugan- Chairman of PDIDA

To read about the studies that show music can eliminate non-purposeful loitering in business districts go the following links:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/entertainment/2009543344_music27m.html

http://www.amren.com/mtnews/archives/2011/04/oregon_cops_hop.php

There have been many positive comments either called into the PDIDA office or sent by email, and careful notes were taken to document public reaction!

“The music is working. good going”. Warren of Ink & Essence

“Love the music. What time does it end on Saturday night? Came out after rehearsal and people were back to hanging around”. Marta of Tripac Theatre

“Great idea with the music. It even annoyed me crossing High and Hanover to go the bank. I didn’t know the idea behind it until your note. What a wonderful way to discourage the bums and beggars. Keep up the good ideas and good work”.  Bob of Audio Video Junction


” I think its working! Today for the first time I  actually walked out of my restaurant without being asked for change or a cigarette.I’ll call the borough today and express my gratitude!”  Ron from Juan Carlos

“The vagrants seem to be hanging less and less when the music is on at first I thought it was too cold, but after a day of no activity, the music stopped and a bunch of them were back by 7:15pm.”  Gene of Grumpy’s Sandwiches

“LOVE the Music”! Rosie (patron of High Street Yoga)

I just want to drop a note to everybody to say that we at the Farmers’ Market can actually see the music working every time it’s tried. The benches in front of the parking lot adjacent to our building are usually full of people who aren’t shy about making noise, littering, spitting, cussing loudly, etc. I usually don’t get too much grief as I walk by them because I am a man and don’t look like I will put up with it. Some others tell a different tale, however, and it is unacceptable for this behavior from adults to be tolerated. When the music is playing, no problem…..they go away….. I saw it with my own eyes again today”. Ben Moscia of Pottstown Farmers Marker

“I just had to let you know how excited we are here at Lasticks. There were a few of my customers over the weekend who wanted to know where all the “regulars” were. I told them about the music and they were amazed at the results, but very pleased. I thought you might like to know this. Thanks again!” Mary of Lasticks Furniture

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3 Responses to ““Pottstown Is Alive With The Sound of Music””

  1. Michael Shannon Says:

    I am privy to the successes of this concept. While living in London in the 90’s the practice of broadcasting orchestral and opera music was employed, as this article states, in the subways. It is being used as a deterrent to loitering and crime in many shopping and dining districts throughout London as well.

    Opera music is generally not on my “Top Ten” list however, it has become one of my favorite musical genres when it is employed as a crime prevention tool. For those who are shopping, dining or taking a stroll of an evening, the music sets a calm, classy, subliminal tone to public locations that might otherwise be teaming with panhandlers, and, (in the case of London), small gangs of thugs, pickpockets and drug dealers.

    It is impressive that Ms. Dugan and the Pottstown administrators are looking at positive solutions for High St. and I offer my commendations. Given enough time and consistency this technique will be beneficial to people who do business downtown and those who shop, dine or see a play at the theater.

    If other issues that plague the downtown can be approached with thoughtful logic such as this, it won’t be long before new businesses and shoppers will feel welcome and comfortable being on High St. and elsewhere. It is most certainly time now to incorporate those activities that will begin to alter the perception and experience of Pottstown, not only for those who live here, also for those who could be enticed to visit and perhaps stay.

  2. […] issues we face daily … with NO COST to taxpayers,” the organization’s president, Sheila Dugan told Roots of Revitalization. During its first day of experimentation, she said, “we had many loiterers hanging around […]

  3. […] issues we face daily … with NO COST to taxpayers,” the organization’s president, Sheila Dugan told Roots of Revitalization. During its first day of experimentation, she said, “we had many loiterers hanging around […]


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