Nursery rhymes set to music are deeply uncool. Just ask the bottle-throwing teenagers on the Twinbrook estate on outskirts of west Belfast. Ice cream music was played to them as they misbehaved and it stopped them.
In an action that was cleverly psychological, the nursery tunes were blasted through the loudspeakers of a Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) armored Land Rover after the patrol came under attack from about 15 teenagers last weekend.
The police have said no further action was taken. However it's understood that senior officers have taken a dim view of the successful tactic.
'The crew passed a group of around 15 youths who threw bottles at their Land Rover police vehicle,' a PSNI spokesman told the Belfast Telegraph.
'An officer used the vehicle's loudspeaker system to play music to the youths in an effort to use humor to defuse the situation. The youths stopped throwing the bottles. However police accept that this was not an appropriate action. The officer has been spoken to by a senior officer in order to establish the circumstances of the incident.'
Among those who did not see the funny side was Sinn Fein councilor Angela Nelson. “It was a very immature way for police to deal with a very serious problem,” she said. We have serious issues with on-street drinking and the anti-social behavior that results from that on-street drinking. I would have expected the PSNI to have a more mature outlook and not to come up and play ice cream tunes.”
Nelson dismissed the PSNI’s statement which said the music had defused a tense situation.
'That is a very good excuse when they have been caught out. It’s waffle. Where in the world does a police service say that their way of dealing with anti-social behavior is through humor?'
The answer to Nelson's question is Los Angeles. The Drew Street gang was for years one of the most dangerous street gangs in northeast L.A. Hooded gang members lurked behind parked cars and on apartment balconies. At night, tires squealed and gunshots echoed while neighbors huddled in their homes.
In response to the nightly terror the City renamed the streets where the gang congregated Gay Street and Pansy Square. Overnight, after the name change, the gang no longer congregated there and crime decreased.
Perhaps there's more to this humorous and psychological approach than may initially meet the eye.
Originally published in 2011.