Other campus: Repelling teen loiteres (U. Pittsburgh)

By The Pitt News

(U-WIRE) PITTSBURGH – Teen-repellent. It may sound like some bizarre invention from a bad science fiction novel, but sadly, it’s all too real.

Yesterday’s New York Times contained an article about the latest brand of repellant, the Mosquito. A small device, the Mosquito emits a pulsating frequency so high-pitched that it is only audible to younger, more sensitive ears. Its inventor, Welshman Howard Stapleton, designed it to keep teenagers from loitering outside of convenience stores.

This is only the latest weapon in the war on loitering; some businesses use blue-tinged “zit lamps,” which highlight skin imperfections, to embarrass acne-prone teens away from their parking lots and storefronts.

Unlike the lights, though, which only make kids blush, Stapleton’s Mosquito can either annoy them or prove physically painful, depending on the decibel level. Also, unlike the lights which would barely be noticeable to people just walking in and out of the store, the Mosquito will likely be an annoyance to non-loiterers.

The Mosquito is supposedly inaudible to people over the age of 30; those 20 and over may or may not hear it and those under 20 can almost always detect the pitch. That means that more than simply a group of bored high schoolers will feel the urge to stay away from “equipped” areas.

Many convenience store employees are teenagers. Will they be subjected to an unpleasant noise while they work, or if they choose to spend their breaks outside?

Also, plenty of customers will be under the age of 30. Imagine a 25-year-old mother and her infant walking into a convenience store. If noise-sensitivity is strongest in youth, young children will be among the worst victims of Mosquito-like devices.

Mosquitoes located in denser commercial areas might also pose a problem for neighboring businesses, whose owners would be unable to control the noise. A coffee shop or outdoor cafe near a device could lose significant business if the noise spreads to its doorstep.

It’s understandable for stores to want to discourage loitering. A gaggle of teenagers blocking an entranceway is rarely good for business. Using noise to keep them away is not solving the problem though, but rather shifting it elsewhere.

Staff Editorial

The Pitt News (U. Pittsburgh)