Philadelphia is using a sonic weapon to keep surly teens from loitering in public places. Now, the use of the term “weapon” is a bit hyperbolic, as the “weapon” is more annoying than harmful, which to my mind makes it a pretty good idea for a private property owner. Excerpt:
The Mosquito, invented in the U.K. back in 2005, is described by the product’s Canada-based North American distributor as a “small speaker that produces a high-frequency sound much like the buzzing of the insect—this high frequency can be heard by young people 13 to 25 years old,” and reaches as far as 130 feet, depending on the set volume.
Hearing deteriorates with age, and so older people cannot hear the high (17.5 to 18.5 kilohertz) frequencies emitted by the $5,000 devices, which Philadelphia has been deploying since 2014 and is now in 31 locations to “prevent loitering and vandalism.”
Micahel Gibson, the CEO of distributor Moving Sound Technologies, told NPR that “the intention was just to move, non-confrontationally, youth from an area where they should not be. And that will prevent vandalism. It’ll prevent graffiti, loitering.”
City officials have deemed the technology to be safe, but it has raised safety concerns overseas. A health regulator in Germany reported that although the risk to teenagers is “relatively low,” for smaller children there is a risk from lengthy exposure, with adults unable to hear and move away. “The onset of dizziness, headache, nausea and impairment is to be expected.”
There are risks for everything under the sun, and one suspects that the risk to teens from this sonic deterrent is probably no worse than the risk to their hearing from the lousy music banged out through their bass-boosted car stereos, with which they annoy all and sundry. The deployment of a sonic deterrent in return seems to be only fair.
I’m not impressed with the idea of the city using these in what are after all public venues. But were I a private business owner, whose premises were beset with loiterers or vandals? I’d buy one of these units in a heartbeat. When we go from our temporary New Jersey lodgings in the admittedly clean and well-kept small town of Raritan to the airport in Newark, Mrs. Animal and I can’t help but notice the spray-painted vandalism on every wall and door. Maybe a little dose of sonic annoyance would help those business owners with their vandalism problem.