If you were to walk at night along the waterfront in West Palm Beach, Florida, you might hear something strange: A playlist of annoyingly catchy children’s songs – including “Baby Shark” and “Raining Tacos” – blared on loop all night to deter homeless people from sleeping near an event center.
The Waterfront Lake Pavilion, a luxury venue that can be rented for $250 to $500 per hour, doesn’t want rough sleepers on its patio, so the city’s parks and recreation department devised the sonic deterrent.
Kathleen Walter, a spokeswoman for the city, said in a statement that the music is played overnight to discourage “congregating at the building” and to “encourage people to seek safer, more appropriate shelter.”
When sound becomes hostile
Hostile architecture – such as slanted or segmented benches, uneven pavements or metal spikes – has traditionally been employed by municipalities around the world to deter rough sleeping and anti-social behavior, leading to discussions about whether these tactics are discriminatory, unethical or even effective. Although music has long been used to alter or affect public behavior, its use as a deterrent in urban design appears to be more recent.