COLUMN: Mosquito’s buzz a blight on society

Using sonic security devices to tar all teens with the same brush is a short-sighted harmful solution to property crime.

I get genuinely concerned about the direction society appears to be heading when the dark side of science fiction from years gone by is gradually slipping into the reality of our daily lives.

I’m a big proponent of technological advancement, but there are times I question the application and even fear for our future, especially when we start targeting teenagers and children with sonic devices to secure property.

I’m talking about the Mosquito, an electronic device that emits audio frequencies young people’s ears are particularly sensitive to, to drive them out of areas they’re not wanted.

Mosquitoes are designed so the frequencies they emit become increasingly annoying and uncomfortable the longer a person of the targeted age group lingers within the device’s coverage area.

The sample sounds I’ve heard (examples can be heard on the Internet) had an immediate and painful effect I likened to the high frequency tooth scaler my dental hygienist uses. We learned one morning that he must never hit one molar that seems to be directly wired to my inner ear with that thing or he’ll be peeling me off the ceiling.

Mosquitoes have gained popularity in Europe, deployed in areas frequently targeted by graffiti and other forms of property vandalism or around retail outlets and shopping malls that don’t want teenagers hanging around.

One marketer that bills them as an effective method to deal with “anti-social behaviour” and loitering, offers up an answer in its FAQ section that reads, “…sometimes it is just not acceptable for a group of hooded teenagers to be hanging around blocking entrances and exits to shops, banks etc., as it puts off customers from approaching the building.”

Oh, and since the devices can also be tuned to adults, the same manufacturer recommends them for preventing homeless people from sleeping in business doorways.

I recently heard of a U.S. playground equipment manufacturer offering the devices as an optional feature in its playground products.

There’s plenty of discussion and, understandably, growing controversy around installing these in our schools.

I used to see sonic pest control devices advertised to homeowners wanting to drive off rats, squirrels and other vermin.

When I was kid we often hung out at school after hours. It was where we spent most of our days anyway, so the school ground was a social gathering point, a safe place to hang out – not some forbidden zone we were driven off from.

Yes, there were morons who got their kicks wrecking things – there always will be. And no doubt property vandalism is an expensive and consternating problem, but is it so much worse today than in the 1970s when my friends and I hung out at our schools, that we really want to start treating teenagers – not to mention the homeless – like vermin?

And if we, as a society are heading down that road, what’s next?

I can’t help, but wonder why the use of these devices, which inflict discomfort if not outright pain, is not a form of assault.

Could I get away with using one of these for personal protection? I could aim it at anyone I don’t like the looks of and preemptively ward them off. After all, manufacturers claim they’re safe.

Maybe I should mount one in my car to protect it when it’s parked on a public street – right next to a sidewalk cafe.

Honestly, I think the devices will just end up antagonizing the people they target and the aggravate the problems they’re supposed to correct.

Especially if, as one manufacturer claims, it takes five to 15 minutes for these things to drive someone off. One could spray a lot of paint in that time.

But, there are always those who’ll think it’s easier and cheaper to just run the little buggers off than deal with underlying social issues causing problems in the first place.