An anti-loitering device called the Mosquito offers a safe and effective way to curb vandalism, according to the president of the company that holds the North American distribution rights for the gadgets, which emit high frequency sounds that irritate 13 to 25 year olds.
The Vancouver school district unplugged 33 Mosquitoes at 19 school sites in March pending a review about their effectiveness that will also consider health and human rights concerns. A staff report is expected at the May 1 planning and facilities meeting. The B.C. Civil Liberties Association opposes Mosquitoes and calls them discriminatory because they target a specific age group.
Trustees and senior staff say they didn’t realize the use of the device to combat vandalism, which costs the VSB $500,000 annually, had proliferated in the district without consultation. The devices were being operated from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Mike Gibson, president of Moving Sound Technologies, maintains concerns about the Mosquitoes are unwarranted.
Gibson can’t hear the noise, but he said it sounds like “fingernails on a chalkboard times 10” to the target age group of 13 to 25 year olds. Younger children hear it but they’re not bothered by the sound, according to Gibson, who added that dogs are curious, but it doesn’t really bother them either.
“It’s very directional, so you put it in the area you want it to be effective and it will not affect any other area,” he said. “So, for example, if the school board has an area behind a school where they’re having problems with vandalism, or perhaps they have unsafe areas where kids might congregate and have fights and that sort of thing at night, they can focus the Mosquito sound in that area and it would not affect any other area around it… It will not carry to a yard simply because they have a limited distance of 100 feet.”
Although concerns have been raised that the noise might bother young people with conditions such as autism, Gibson said it shouldn’t be an issue.
“If kids with autism are in an area at two o’clock in the morning where they shouldn’t be, I would think there would be more concerns about why they’re there,” he said.
Gibson maintains the devices have already reduced vandalism on school board property and it’s the safest and least expensive way to address the problem. “The bottom line is people have the right to protect their property and school property at two o’clock in the morning is not public property, it’s private property,” he said. “If kids are there at two o’clock, they should maybe be looking at the safety issues rather than the civil liberties issues.”
Gibson estimates there are somewhere between 400 and 500 Mosquito devices installed in the Greater Vancouver area. He’s sold them to property management companies, stratas, restaurants and parking companies. He doesn’t sell to homeowners.
“We don’t sell to residential people unless it’s a strata scenario and usually a property management company would recommend us,” he said.