OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign up, Login or Learn more

The Sound of Safety

The Hills are Alive, with the Sound of...Safety? As you walk through the boulevard of Lancaster, California you'll hear birds chirping, water streaming, and piano notes echoing not only to sooth your stroll but to calm would-be criminals. The soundscape was used to deter minor criminal activity along the main street in downtown Lancaster. Minor crimes dropped in Lancaster by 15% that year. Also, research about which types of music have a calming effect contributed by Shelby Goodman

Photo of Ryan
12 10

Written by

Probably not all of that crime reduction is attributed to the new soundscape, but sounds and music can have legitmate emotional/behavioral effects on people listening.  You'd be hard-pressed to find a Yoga class blasting heavy metal right? Or conversely, start a mosh-pit at an Adele concert.  How can we harness this emotional response to elicit safety and community-building in urban environments?

3/14/14 - Fellow OpenIDEOer Shelby also contributed this study: "which explains which types of music are calming for the mind, suggested that choosing music with rhythms slower than your natural heart rate as well as cyclical or familiar music have great benefits for calming an individuals mind."
Link here:

-What soundscapes can be created to develop an aura of safety and also calm would-be harm-doers?
-How can soundscapes further amplify safespace, safe passage analog designs such as walking hubs, community walking paths, buddy programs?



Join the conversation:

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Great idea Ryan. Several posts emphasized light (or lack of light), e.g.:

but you are right that sound is also a key element: it gives a sense of the liveliness of a neighborhood; no sound can be scary, but some sounds (e.g. suggesting a group of guys who might have drunk too much) can be scary; etc.

It's not only visual clues and broken windows - - which create a feeling of safety!

I'm wondering how we can assess and design for individual and cultural variations... Looking forward to see how this inspires ideas during the upcoming phase

Photo of Ryan

Anne - There have been posts on how how what we see (effect of light) and hear (soothing soundscapes. Ivy inspired me from her comment below yours to look into maybe how smell could have alter behaviors in spaces as well so I posted my research about the calming effects of orange scent in Dutch jail here:
Let's attack this problem from all five senses!

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

A multisensory approach is indeed worth considering. I think we will also need to take into account cultural interpretations as they affect our sensory perceptions.

View all comments