BESIEGED by young yobs, a Park North shopkeeper has installed a high-pitched alarm to drive off louts.
But just a day after Welcombe Stores in Park North installed the “mosquito” that had cleared the area outside the shop, the hooligans came back to try to destroy it.
Shop owner Sue Ratto said she had put in the alarm, which emits an irritating high-pitched sound that only young people can hear, after months of anti-social behaviour outside the shop.
A mosquito device was installed near the Wyvern Theatre earlier in the year.
Mrs Ratto said that repeated vandalism and intimidation of older customers had driven her to install the £800 mosquito on Friday.
On Saturday night, yobs tried to destroy it but mistakenly attacked the burglar alarm instead.
Swindon police crime prevention officer Bob Walton said that he supported the use of the deterrent, but warned it should not be switched on all the time.
But a Home Office minister and civil liberties groups have warned against abusing the devices.
The shop also faces a liquor licensing hearing after an assistant there sold a bottle of Lambrini to a 15-year-old secret shopper during a Trading Standards sting in September.
The council’s licensing committee is expected to hear the case next month.
Mrs Ratto admitted that the shop had sold the bottle of Lambrini by mistake, but was adamant that she was not interested in selling alcohol to young people and causing more anti-social behaviour.
“Why would we want to risk our licence for £1.49?” Mrs Ratto said, quoting the price of the Lambrini sold to the underage shopper.
“We are fed up,” said the shopkeeper, who has run the premises for the past four years.
“We have been having lots of problems with the kids out the front.
“They were very intimidating to older customers.
“Whenever they have drinks in their hands we tell the police.
“At the end of the day there’s only so much the police can do.”
She said the mosquito had cleared the area outside the shop of troublemakers, something customers appreciated.
Shop manager Jaswinder Singh said that the mosquito had cleared the area of troublemakers.
“It worked that well that the kids tried to smash it,” Mr Singh said.
“They tried to hit it but the alarm went off.”
Crime prevention officer Mr Walton said the mosquito gave “surprisingly good results” for dispersing gangs.
“I do recommend the usage of that device,” he said.
“I have never had a complaint from a member of the public.”
Welcombe Stores is the first private premise to use the device in Swindon, Mr Walton said, but the council had used it near the Wyvern and other town trouble spots.
The device has been installed less than a month after Home Office Minister Tony McNulty warned that devices which deter youths should be used with caution.
There have also been concerns on health and safety grounds about the equipment, which was developed by South Wales-based Compound Security Systems.
The mosquito exploits the fact that people’s ability to hear very high frequencies declines in their 20s.
Mr McNulty told MPs in November that it was for police and local authorities to decide the most effective responses to anti-social behaviour.
“The Home Office does not promote or recommend any particular commercial product or venture above this,” he said in a parliamentary written answer.
“The use of any device like the sonic teenager deterrent should be treated with caution and if used should form part of an overall strategy to tackle the drivers of that anti-social behaviour and to encourage more constructive behaviour.”
Parks councillor Barrie Thompson was not convinced the mosquito was the answer to anti-social behaviour.
“I don’t think they are the most effective in the long term,” he said.
Coun Thompson (Lab, Parks) said residents had noticed an increase in anti-social behaviour recently, blaming the rise on troublemakers driven out of Cavendish Square.
Publication Swindon Advertiser
Date20 December 2006