Sonic youth: The high-pitched sound alarm for under 25s

Is Mosquito, the high-pitched alarm only under-25s can hear, a blessing or a bane? Jamie Merrill sounds it out

What would you do if the children playing outside the front of your house were behaving badly? What if you blamed them for damaging your car or firing airgun pellets at your dog? Would you go out and remonstrate with them, talk to their parents, call the local Neighbourhood Policing Team, or install a high-pitched alarm that only younglings can hear to scare away the loitering tearaways?

The last is exactly what Scott Smith, 43, a Royal Mail manager from Royton, Greater Manchester, and his partner, Andrea Riley, 39, have done after claiming they endured months of antisocial behaviour, vandalism, racist abuse and even airgun attacks from local children on their suburban street near Oldham.

“I’m not a grumpy old man who hates children,” Smith says. “ There was damage to our cars because the kids kept hitting them with footballs. Our dog got hurt. And they made a lot of noise and this device has been a miracle for us.”

Unfortunately for Smith, his neighbours aren’t happy with his use of the Mosquito MK4 alarm and motion sensor and have complained to Oldham Council under noise-nuisance laws. Neighbour Michelle Plevin, 27, who has four children, says they can’t play outside any more and that her youngest child has been made “physically sick” by the device. “He cries and says it hurts and there is nothing I can do to help him. It’s awful,” she adds.

The latest complaint isn’t the first time the Mosquito has caused controversy, though. When the Mosquito was launched in 2008, a campaign called “Buzz Off” led by the Children’s Commissioner for England called for it to be banned, claiming the device was unnecessarily aggressive and created no-go areas for children and young adults who may have done nothing wrong. In 2010, an investigation by the Council of Europe found that the device was “ degrading and discriminatory” to youngsters and should be banned because it “violates legislation prohibiting torture”.

Since it went on the market, nearly 3,000 devices have been sold in the UK, mainly to small-shop owners, but according to its inventor, Howard Stapleton, who runs Compound Security Systems, sales of the device to families and home owners are soaring. “Many home owners and families, like this couple in Royton, have genuine antisocial-behaviour complaints but are simply not getting the assistance they deserve from their local authorities And at the end of the day, if nobody is going to help you, you are going to have to help yourself.”

The Mosquito works by emitting an alternating high-frequency tone four times a second which isn’t audible to people over about 25 years of age, but is intensely irritating to people under that age. According to Stapleton, a former aerospace engineer who came up with the device after his daughter was intimidated by a gang of boys hanging around outside shops, it makes “a noise that is impossible to ignore” because it takes advantage of a medical condition called presbycusis, which reduces our ability to hear high-frequency noises as we age. “This couple in Oldham are really at the end of their tether,” he says. “My colleagues have spoken to them and they are using the device correctly and only when they are experiencing problems. And as to reports of negative side effects, I think they have been over-egged.”

The human-rights campaign group Liberty has described it as a “ sonic weapon”, though, and in January this year the supermarket chain Aldi faced criticism for using the device in Brighton. Local resident Dan Gardener, 24, told The Argus that he tries to avoid the area around the company’s London Road store since the device was installed. “It’s definitely effective but for where it’s positioned it’s over the top.”

Audio: The sound of the mosquito alarm

WARNING: High-pitched noise

Mosquito low tone sound by The Independent on Mixcloud

 

Audio: The real mosquito noise which can only be heard by people under 25

 

What the mosquito noise really sounds like by The Independent on Mixcloud

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Intruder Alarm Trainee Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This friendly and fast growing security compan...

Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

Recruitment Genius: Administrator

£14500 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Administrator

£14500 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore