Build a better mousetrap and someone is sure to come along and poke a stick in it.
Take the Mosquito, for example. Marketed as a “teen deterrent device,” the little grey boxes can emit a high-frequency noise — much like the insect after which it’s named — audible only to people aged 13 to 25. They are barely audible to older folks, although a simple switch makes it capable of annoying anyone within earshot.
Invented in Wales a few years ago, the $1,100 gadgets seemed an ideal tool in the costly and incessant battle against school vandalism. Districts in Vancouver, Victoria and Nanaimo that adopted them noticed immediate and significant reductions in damage. By all reports, they worked beautifully until questions arose.
Vancouver School Board has decided to unplug the devices after receiving complaints. The B.C. Civil Liberties Association wants the devices removed. It views them as an infringement of rights because they target all children and may pose a hazard to health.
The BCCLA has ammunition from the European Union after a committee voted unanimously in March to ban Mosquitoes in public places. The devices, they concluded, constitute “a disproportionate interference with the right to respect for one’s private life, including the right to respect for one’s physical integrity.”
Since some of the devices were installed at elementary playgrounds and there is some concern they may pose a hazard to young children, the Vancouver board was right to temporarily switch them off as a precautionary measure.
Kamloops-Thompson School District has felt the sting of vandals for yeers. The cost of damage ranges from $30,000 to $50,000 annually. Some of the destruction is malicious. During spring break, screws were removed on playground equipment at Kay Bingham elementary. During or after school, children could have been seriously injured. A few weeks earlier, the school had 40 windows broken. These acts are disturbing to many students.
Ironically, the sole Mosquito device that was installed here, at Brock middle school, failed to prevent the worst incident of vandalism this year, so the district probably won’t install any more.
A little homework is called for here to gain a clearer understanding of the device, any potential risk as well as costs versus benefits. There ought to be some calculation of the greater good these devices represent. Are students not entitled to attend schools free of destruction?
Vandalism is just part of the problem. Ask anyone who resides near a school. Many live with the continual disturbance of partying, broken glass, noise and profanity in the middle of the night. Do neighbouring residents not have a right to respect for peace and privacy? Must everyone suffer in the interest of protecting the sensitive ears of young vandals?
Once the homework is done — and most reports indicate the devices are safe — we say, bring on the Mosquitoes.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, editor Robert Koopmans, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.