Gilchrist: Sound makes loiterers buzz off

Tracy Gilchrist / Kamloops Daily News
June 8, 2012 01:00 AM

Various security measures are in place to monitor the building's perimeter.

Should someone try to scale a wall to climb onto the roof, a motion detector sets a siren wailing. Video cameras are also set up and in a somewhat hidden alcove in the back, an anti-loitering device -the controversial mosquito - deters people from gathering.

Sadly, these combined efforts weren't enough to stave off $20,000 in vandalism at Brock middle school in March that two teens were ultimately arrested for.

And Brock and six other schools were hit last weekend with broken windows and graffiti, a huge frustration for the school district.

"We kind of expect it and budget for it," said assistant Supt. Karl deBruijn, noting repairing such damage is a "frustrating waste of money" that could be better spent.

RCMP note many youths hang out around schools at night and while most are not doing anything wrong, groups of kids with idle time can definitely lead to mischief.

There's no one cure-all for the problem, but perhaps it's time to take a idea from the Vancouver school district and set schools buzzing with a few more crowd deterrents.

The mosquito noise device makes a high-pitched sound audible only to those under the age of 25, though it can be set to a different range that can be picked up by older ears as well.

They were deactivated from Vancouver schools in April, after the school board there said the boxes had never been sanctioned, but after checking with their legal beagles and the health authority - and enduring a rash of serious vandalism at several schools while they were off - the decision was made to turn them back on.

The Vancouver district operates mosquitoes between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., a time when no one needs to be congregating around schools.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association opposes the devices, suggesting they unfairly target all children. But as the mosquitoes can be set at various ranges, it would be easy enough to counter that claim by operating them at a level other ages could hear as well.

There is a raft of websites with sample mosquitoes where people can see if they've got the ears of someone under 25.

I played test monkey with my mid-40-year-old ears and asked a 30-something coworker to join me in the experiment, so we could know how it sounded.

The mosquitoes that are supposed to deter youths run at a frequency of 17.4 kHz and the ones that could be set to annoy most people can be set at eight kHz.

I could hear 15 kHz, her more youthful ears picked up 17 kHz and eight kHz was downright loud. The noises weren't pleasant - squeaky, metallic, like a high-pitched dog whistle. If the sound was playing around the perimeter of a building, I sure wouldn't hang around, and have to assume it would have the same effect on loitering youths.

Granted, in instances of idiots rapidly smashing windows with hockey sticks, these devices may not do the job, but kids hanging about places mosquitoes are activated would find somewhere else to park themselves.

At around $1,000 per unit, it's an experiment worth trying at a few more schools.

Let's make some noise.

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