California Mayor Broadcasts Birdsongs From Loudspeakers, And Cuts Crime in The Process

Yellow songbird singing
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Warblers like this one provided the soundtrack for one California town's birdsongs that play over loudspeakers.

When Mayor R. Rex Parris of Lancaster, Calif., preaches about the benefits of tweeting, he’s not talking about social media.

In March 2011, the notoriously offbeat official began playing birdsongs from loudspeakers in the city’s commercial district with the hope of improving citizens' moods. (It worked for Cinderella, didn't it?) Now, according to a Wall Street Journal article, he claims that the chirps have actually decreased crime.

Mayor Parris — who is reportedly fascinated by cognitive behavior and science — first got wind of the concept after reading a story in which Julian Treasure, chairman of The Sound Agency in the U.K. town of Surrey, touted the calming effects of sounds like birdsongs.

The mayor reached out to the British company to design a sound system for his desert city’s recently refurbished downtown stretch, known as "The Boulevard."

“Mayor Parris commissioned Julian to come up with calming sounds — birds, water, and mellow, almost New Age music, so people would come to The Boulevard, enjoy themselves, feel happier and be nicer to one another,” says communications manager Joseph Cabral.

The mayor, his staff and some local shop owners say that the peaceful mood has been palpable ever since the birdsongs started playing daily from 8 A.M. – 11 A.M. and 2 P.M. – 4 P.M. In fact, crime in the city has dipped 15 percent since 2010 — although a number of factors could be at play, including a drop in the state’s overall crime rate.

Still, some swear that the method works. And others think it’s, well, for the birds.

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