A US city has come under fire over a controversial plan to deter homeless people that has been described as “psychological torture”.
In recent months, Los Angeles has been blasting loud classical music in train stations in a bid to reduce crime and prevent homeless people from loitering.
It comes after a recent spike in fatal overdoses and serious crime such as rape, aggravated assault and robbery within the city’s public transport system.
According to the LA Times, a city pilot program has seen blinding floodlights deployed in the Westlake/MacArthur Park station, along with music from a royalty-free playlist by legendary composers such as Beethoven, Mozart and Vivaldi in a continuous loop.
But while LA Metro spokesman Dave Sotero told the publication “the music is not loud”, insisting it was being played at 72 decibels – less than normal noise levels outside the station – an experiment by the Times contradicted the claim, with a handheld meter revealing the sound levels actually averaged 83dB and peaked at 90dB in some areas.
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), decibel levels between 80 and 85 are comparable to lawnmowers and leaf blowers, with hearing damage possible after just two hours of exposure.
As a result, the publication argued: “There is a clear disconnect between what transit riders and the unhoused are experiencing in the subterranean confines of the station and LA Metro’s official line about the music’s volume.”
LA Metro also recently told the LA Daily News the noise levels were “comfortable” for short periods of time.
“The idea is to create an atmosphere that is comfortable for spending short amounts of time transiting through our station, but not conducive to hours-long loitering,” a spokesperson said.
But the move has spared fierce backlash, with online commentators branding it an inhumane torture tactic.
“This is despicable. Sonic torture of people without homes in LA,” civil rights lawyer Scott Hechinger tweeted.
Another Twitter user called for LA Metro to “stop the psychological torture”, while another compared it to psychological horror flick A Clockwork Orange.
And other critics pointed out it did little to address the root cause of the homelessness problem.
Music has long been used as a weapon, with the US military infamously blasting Metallica’s Enter Sandman at Iraqi detainees in Guantanamo Bay, while “music torture” was used to force strongman Manuel Noriega out of hiding at the Vatican’s embassy in Panama City in 1989.
Los Angeles is just the latest in a string of global cities to spark backlash as a result of anti-homelessness measures.
In recent years, UK cities including London and Manchester were widely criticised for installing “defensive architecture” in the form of metal spikes which were placed on the ground in areas where people were known to sleep rough.
Pavement sprinklers have also been positioned over the years in New York, Hamburg and Guangzhou, with the intention of spraying homeless people who linger too long.
There are also countless examples right across the world of bus shelter benches that tilt forward, park benches with uncomfortable dividers and cement bollards positioned under bridges in an attempt to drive away those sleeping rough.