It could be considered cruel and unusual punishment.
The owner of a men’s clothing store in downtown Nanaimo is playing the stubborn earworm Baby Shark, with its unshakeable doo-doo doo-doo doo-doos, all night, every night to discourage vandalism and loitering. (You can listen to Baby Shark on YouTube. But don’t say we didn’t warn you.)
Leon Drzewiecki, owner of NYLA Fresh Thread on Commercial Street, said he was thinking of ways to protect the store when he thought of putting Baby Shark on repeat.
“I have speakers outside my store anyway. We always play music regardless,” he said Friday. “I was just looking for a fun, positive way to bring a little bit of attention to this problem that we were having.”
So far, it’s working, said Drzewiecki, who began playing Baby Shark on the outside speaker a week ago.
The usual daytime selection of popular music continues. But when the store closes for the evening, the music switches to Baby Shark. Featuring colourful animated sharks, the toddler-friendly song and dance was the first YouTube video to hit 10 billion views.
“It’s a fun-loving song that anybody would like, but if you are hearing it for a long period of time over and over again, it’s not something you are going to want to stick around and hang out with.”
(Drzewiecki isn't the first to think of using the song in this way. Back in 2019, for example, West Palm Beach, Florida, tried playing popular children songs — including Baby Shark — to discourage people from spending the night in a park.)
NYLA is located in the old part of the city, home to unique locally owned shops in historic buildings where a tight community spirit prevails.
But over the past several weeks, Drzewiecki has become increasingly concerned about the store’s security.
Fires have been set in the alcove, drug paraphernalia has been left behind, windows have been scratched and paint has been thrown on the front of the store. Sometimes, overnight campers refuse to move in the mornings when the store opens.
In the last six months, there have been three break-ins, said Drzewiecki, adding playing Baby Shark has brought out a lighter side. Bank employees heading to work nearby were recently seen dancing into their building.
Music plays at a fairly low volume, with the sound largely confined to the alcove, he said.
Some shop owners install metal shutters to protect stores overnight but Drzewiecki said he doesn’t want to make it look “like a prison.”
RCMP Const. Gary O’Brien praised Drzewiecki, saying his idea is a harmless and creative way to protect property. “It’s thinking outside the box and it’s not costing any money.”
Noise deterrents are not new — some stores have tried playing classical music.
The Nanaimo Ladysmith School District uses the Mosquito anti-loitering deterrent. Seven of the district’s 28 elementary schools have them installed, a district official said.
The Mosquito emits a high-frequency noise that its website says can only be heard by those 25 or younger if set at 17 KHz (Kilohertz). That’s because as people age, they lose the ability to hear high frequencies, the company said.