7-Eleven tries classical music to discourage loiterering, panhandling


Chico >> Downtown Chico sounds a bit different these days.

Passerby can hear the sounds of Beethoven’s symphonies day and night near East First and Main Streets, where the 7-Eleven is taking a unique approach to discourage loitering and panhandling.

The convenience store has long had issues with people gathering in front of the store and asking customers for money, cashier Sunny Kumar said. The business started playing classical music through a loudspeaker about three weeks ago to help clear out the front of the store.

“All day these guys were standing there. There were guys sleeping there, drinking beers and groups of people asking for money from customers,” Kumar said. “Now it’s very good. It’s clean.”

The business plays an album featuring Beethoven’s Septet in E-Flat and Adagio Ma Non Troppo-Allegro on loop. People still loiter and try to panhandle, Kumar said, but there are fewer of them and they typically stay for shorter periods of time.

“It’s better now. It’s very clean. There is almost no one there,” Kumar said.

The store decided to try using classical music after another 7-Eleven employee recommended it. The practice dates back more than 30 years, according to an article from the Washington Post, when in the mid-1980s a 7-Eleven began playing music in the parking lot to deter crowds of teenagers from gathering there.

The method has been used throughout the country, including in West Palm Beach, Florida, where in 2001 police played Mozart and Beethoven on a crime-ridden street corner and saw incidents significantly decline.

In Chico, the 7-Eleven store has seen an increase in customers, Kumar said, and plans to continue the practice.

Kumar isn’t the only one who has noticed a difference.

“They (people loitering) don’t stand around here anymore,” said Pamela Thomas, a downtown ambassador. “It happens, but not as often.”

Chico State University student Darren Fegley said he frequents the store often and that he’s now more comfortable going in.

“I’m not so worried about the people around me. It’s easy to go in and out,” Fegley said.

This isn’t the first effort the business has made to decrease criminal activity in front of its store and the downtown area. In 2011 the 7-Eleven opted to stop selling single-serve liquor products that often wound up littering the nearby Lost Park.

In a previous interview with this newspaper, owner Vikramjit Gill said that although the store lost some business, he began to see less loitering around his business. Chico police officers said they saw a reduction in the amount of litter, public drunkenness and aggressive panhandling in the park.

Reach reporter Dani Anguiano at 896-7767.

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