Ahoy, Britney Spears: Today’s pirate fighter!

It might sound like a prank or “marl road” gossip, but it’s true. According to British Merchant Navy officer Rachel Owen, they have found a way to frighten off modern day pirates. No cannons, swords or international negotiations necessary, Ahoy! It’s Britney Spears, striking fear in the ears of Somali pirates! 

In 2011 Somali Pirates attacked 176 ships off the coast of Africa. They’ve been shot at, arrested and feared, not to mention costing an estimated $6.6 billion to $6.9 billion a year in global trade, according to Oceans Beyond Piracy, an organization dedicated to fighting piracy by meetings and workshops rather than guns and ransom payoffs. Somali pirates earn an average of $4 million for each ship they attack, and they are a major headache for shipping moguls. Something needs to be done. 

To the rescue, when Britney Spears’s music is blasted in high volume over speakers aimed at the pirates, they tend to abort their missions and flee on the high seas. Spears’s songs like “Toxic” and “Baby One More Time” appear to be especially effective in prompting the would-be scavengers to stick their fingers in their ears rather than on the trigger of a rocket launcher. Somali Pirates hate anything to do with Western culture, so Britney’s hits are a perfect weapon. An armada of armed naval vessels used to dissuade Somali Pirates can cost millions of dollars; on the other hand a Britney Spears CD can be purchased in the discount rack at Wal-Mart for $6.99. Someone is using their head. 

It seems almost laughable but, interesting enough, this is not the first time “bothersome music” has been used as a weapon do intimidate villains. In 1985, convenience store managers in British Columbia initiated the use of classical music as a way to rid teenagers from loitering in their stores’ parking lots. The tactic proved successful; the teens chose to take their loitering elsewhere, and soon cities around the world began to follow suit. 

After transit officials began piping classical music through the London underground, robberies dropped by 33 percent. In 2001, police in West Palm Beach, Florida, started blaring Bach, Beethoven and Mozart at a notoriously crime-ridden intersection. The troubled corner showed marked improvement with the launch of programmed classical music despised by rappers and indolent beggars. 

There’s just something about the complexity of classical music that does not fit well with crackheads, vagabonds and habitual lawbreakers. Piping classical music into the park is annoying to mooching freeloaders who irritate the average citizen who might want to walk in the park or stop to eat a pleasant lunch. 

Similar to London, police officials in Sydney, Australia, say crime went down at several public transit stations after classical music made its debut. In 2006, one suburb of Sydney, Australia even tried the music of Barry Manilow to discourage teenage loitering. In the Bronx, New York, one family-operated food store was losing business due to the drug dealing that went on daily along the curbside of their store. Calling police was merely a temporary fix; the following day the crooks would return and go about their illegal trade. The owner finally had enough. He set up speakers in the second-story windows and began blasting opera music. The extreme register vocals of Enrico Caruso and Luciano Pavarotti had the hooligans hightailing to another part of town. 

Back in Cayman, where we celebrate pirates rather than discourage them, local merchants are looking forward to a week of brisk business. We asked one business owner, who had been the victim of several robberies, what he thought of the idea of piped classical music to scare off potential robbers: 

“Well,” he said, “the problem with playing classical or opera in my store would be that no one would show up – including staff and customers as well as the criminals.” 

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