'Mosquito' man defends anti-vandalism devices unplugged at Vancouver schools

Trustees claim they didn't realize Mosquitoes had spread throughout district

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.

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Trustees and senior staff say they didnt 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 cant 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 theyre not bothered by the sound, according to Gibson, who added that dogs are curious, but it doesnt really bother them either.

Its 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 theyre 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 shouldnt be an issue.

If kids with autism are in an area at two oclock in the morning where they shouldnt be, I would think there would be more concerns about why theyre there, he said.

Gibson maintains the devices have already reduced vandalism on school board property and its 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 oclock in the morning is not public property, its private property, he said. If kids are there at two oclock, 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. Hes sold them to property management companies, stratas, restaurants and parking companies. He doesnt sell to homeowners.

We dont sell to residential people unless its a strata scenario and usually a property management company would recommend us, he said.

noconnor@vancourier.com

Twitter: Naoibh

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