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‘Mosquito’ noise repels teens at pizza parlour

Forget asbos, the latest weapon against antisocial youths is the Mosquito.

The Sonic Teenager Deterrent – nicknamed the Mosquito because it emits a high-pitched sound-wave – is so irritating that young gangs are forced to move on, fingers jammed into their ears.

The device ranges from 70 to 85 decibels – equivalent to the sound of a neighbour’s lawn mower – but at a pitch that can generally only be heard by those under 25. After that, most people have suffered some age-related hearing loss and cannot pick up certain frequencies.

The only Nottingham shop believed to have the device is Mr Ts Pizza, in Bagnall Road, Basford. Owner Jawed Abbasi installed it six months ago.

“I have had problems with gangs of youths in the past,” he said. “I have had my window smashed a few times and was calling the police anything up to three times some days.”

But since installing the Mosquito he has not had to call them out.

Police crime reduction manager Kevin Brown said: “The installation of the device has certainly had an impact on Mr Abbasi’s property as we were getting a number of calls from him each week. These have now virtually stopped. You usually find with these sorts of crimes that they are displaced, but in this instance, it doesn’t seem to be the case.” The Mosquito – a nine-inch black box that costs around £500 – was devised by Howard Stapleton, a former apprentice at British Aerospace. The 39-year-old from Merthyr Tydfill, Wales, came up with the idea when he recalled being shown around a factory as a 12-year-old.

“They were melting bits of plastic using a high-pitched noise which sounded like a mosquito,” he said. “It was horrible – I ran from the floor holding my ears.” But the factory floor manager and older employees could not hear anything, as the pitch was outside their range of hearing. The device emits a high-frequency pulse that is barely audible to anyone over 20 because, as we get older, we suffer progressive hearing loss due to our noisy environment and the structure of our ear changes,” said Mr Stapleton.

“Ninety per cent of people under 20 will be able to hear it and 90% of people over 30 won’t. It’s not the level of noise which proves effective but the annoyance of the thing,” said Mr Stapleton.

“Imagine being locked in your bedroom with an alarm clock you can’t turn off for 20 minutes – it would drive you potty.”

But he warned: “People need to be sensible when using The Mosquito. It is not to be used as a weapon of reprisal.

“I have refused to sell the product to a home-owner who said he wanted it because his neighbours’ children were making too much noise playing in the garden.”

The Newport Community Safety Partnership in South Wales withdrew its support for the device after it was set up outside a Spar shop in the town.

Mr Stapleton said: “The safety group merely pointed out that they could not use the device without seeking legal representation. Once they did that, they were happy to use it.”

Angela King, a senior audiologist at the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, said the Mosquito emitted a very high-pitched sound just within the range of human hearing for young people, but could not be heard by most over-25s.

“As we get older we gradually lose our hearing – and we lose it from the high frequency end of the sound spectrum first,” she said. “Many young people can hear the very high pitched echo-location sounds that flying bats make, for example, but older people can’t.

“We understand that the sound from the Mosquito can become extremely annoying to young people, but is not at a level that will cause damage to hearing.”

Publication Nottingham Evening Post
Date 17 May 2006

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