The Asbo may be today's weapon of choice against teenage yobs and hooligans. But now a more terrifying deterrent is to be deployed in the battle against anti-social behaviour: the music of Cliff Richard and the Carpenters.
Local councils around the country will get official advice this week telling them they should disperse unruly youths from public places by playing music "so uncool" they can't stand to listen to it.
A Local Government Association memo, seen by The Independent on Sunday, calls for "pilot projects for the Manilow method", a system tested in Sydney, Australia, where the strains of "Copacabana" and "Mandy" were piped through loudspeakers into a car park where youths congregated.
The memo advises local councils to experiment with songs that young hooligans "would find almost unbearable to listen to and too uncool to hang around". An initial list has been drawn up by the LGA. Among the hits recommended as deterrents are "Things Can Only Get Better" by D:Ream; "Close to You" by the Carpenters and, of course, Sir Cliff Richard's Christmas number one "Mistletoe and Wine". The songs could be piped into shopping malls, car parks and even town squares at night to drive the troublemakers away.
At some Tube stations, including Brixton and Vauxhall, London Underground plays classical music. But the LGA thinks that only the most cringe-making hits will drive troublemakers away "without stigmatising young adults". "Even if we like some of these songs, no self-respecting chav would want to be seen anywhere near them," said an LGA spokesman.
The pilot projects are to be closely monitored by the Home Office's Respect task force, which has asked councils to find new methods of tackling anti-social behaviour. "We are keen to encourage local agencies to consider the full range of innovations, schemes and practices intended to reduce crime, fear of crime and anti-social behaviour. The Respect task force will be interested to hear from those authorities who have used music to improve the environment and deter anti-social behaviour and whether it has worked," said a Home Office spokesman.
But some fear that songs on the Manilow method list could inadvertently become cool and even enjoyed by the young people they are supposed to deter. A deterrent device known as the "mosquito" that emits a high-pitched noise that only young people could hear was converted by teenagers into a mobile phone ringtone that their teachers could not detect.
Councillor Les Lawrence, the chairman of the LGA Children and Young People Board, hoped councils round the country would consider using the technique. "Anything that helps to stop anti-social youths from having a damaging effect on others should be explored," he said. "We shall be following this very closely to examine whether it works."
HITS TO MISS
20 songs suggested by the Local Government Association to deter teens.
1. Release Me - Engelbert Humperdinck
2. Unchained Melody - Robson and Jerome
3. (I've had) The Time of My Life - Bill Medley
4. Achy Breaky Heart - Billy Ray Cyrus
5. I Will Always Love You - Whitney Houston
6. Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen - Neil Sedaka
7. (Everything I Do) I Do It for You - Bryan Adams
8. Bridge Over Troubled Water - Gene Pitney
9. How Am I Supposed to Live Without You - Michael Bolton
10. (They Long to Be) Close to You - The Carpenters
11. There's No one Quite Like Grandma - St Winifred's School Choir
12. I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) - The Proclaimers
13. Diamond Lights - Glenn and Chris
14. The Power of Love - Jennifer Rush
15. Hello - Lionel Richie
16. Things Can Only Get Better - D:Ream (below)
17. Uptown Girl - Billy Joel
18. Nothing's Gonna Change My Love For You - Glenn Medeiros
19. Mistletoe and Wine - Cliff Richard
20. I've Got A Crush On You - Des O'ConnorReuse content