Manilow plan to calm Christchurch youth

EASY LISTENING: Barry Manilow's sweet sounds may be used to calm down unruly young people in Christchurch's Stewart Plaza.
EASY LISTENING: Barry Manilow's sweet sounds may be used to calm down unruly young people in Christchurch's Stewart Plaza.

Barry Manilow could become the latest weapon to control intimidating youths in central Christchurch.

Copacabana, Can't Smile Without You, Mandy and other hits from the American crooner could be played in Stewart Plaza to disperse large groups of youths accused of littering, tagging and general disorder.

Central City Business Association manager Paul Lonsdale is exploring plans to install speakers in Stewart Plaza to play "nice, easy listening" music to calm behaviour.

The technique has been used worldwide as a way to make places unattractive to youths.

"If we put music through the City Mall, it would change the environment in some respects. We do not mind young people being there, it is just what they do when they are there. If they are aggressive and intimidating, that is a problem," he said.

"If you look at pedestrian flows people do not walk through that area ... It is not about major change, it is about changing the environment slightly."

A device that makes a high-pitched noise that only young people can hear has also been used abroad to disperse teens, but that was seen as too aggressive.

"It is not very PC and the idea is not to do that to your environment. You can create a nice environment by introducing nice music," said Lonsdale.

Teens gathered in Stewart Plaza yesterday said they would not be deterred by unfashionable music.

Emma Belcher, 16, said they would combat the music with their own. "We would just bring a stereo and play it louder. It would just be a waste of power and that would be bad for the environment," she said.

Shelley McManis, 17, said the plan was laughable. "That would just be funny.

"I do not always like it here. The atmosphere can sometimes be intimidating and there are fights all the time, but it is a good place to have a chat."

City centre community constable Nigel Heslop welcomed the idea as a "classic example of how a local community can do something".

He said there were about two arrests a week in Stewart Plaza for offences like offensive language, disorderly behaviour and fighting.

"It is low level, but it is consistently there and so it needs to be consistently policed. Generally, we will arrest as we are trying to take a zero-tolerance attitude to disorder there," he said.

Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism chief executive Christine Prince supported the move as part of plans to target problem spots in the city.

It would also help protect the garden city's reputation.


The Press