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Teen-bothering sonic device now does grownups too

Liberty: We need an urgent government crackdown

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The controversial "Mosquito" noise device, originally designed to move on groups of tiresome youths by emitting high-pitched sounds only they could hear, has been upgraded. The annoyance machine can now target all ages, and has drawn further protests from concerned groups.

The new Mark 4 Mosquito puts out noise "at 100 decibels", according to the BBC, which seems unlikely - that's as noisy as a chainsaw or a pneumatic drill. According to makers Compound Security Systems, Mosquitos are designed to work at 5 decibels above the ambient noise level.

"It is quieter than a child playing the violin," inventor Howard Stapleton told the Beeb.

"What makes it appear loud is the fact that it is going on and off four times a second. That's what makes it very annoying."

Stapleton says his machines - both the youngster-busting high frequency jobs and the new all-inclusive ones - are selling well.

However, the very idea of the Mosquito is offensive to many. The "Buzz Off" campaign has seen individual-rights group Liberty allied with the Children's Commissioner and the National Youth Agency against the sonic device.

Unusually, Liberty are arguing here for a strict ban on Mosquitos, firmly enforced.

"I think we need urgent research and regulation by the authorities," Liberty honcho Shami Chakrabarti told the Beeb.

"It's not going to stop determined criminals. It could cause damage to the rest of us and certainly make our lives a bit of a misery."

It seems that the rights of loitering youths in this case trump those of local authorities, property owners or residents to make noises if they choose to. Liberty might have some problems here - a Mosquito is basically just a speaker. The sound that a Mosquito makes has already been sold as a ringtone, and a crackdown which tried to prevent people using their stereos at ambient-plus-5-decibels would be very hard to enforce. Indeed, the threshold for council intervention in cases of noisy music is normally a lot higher than that.

In Australia, local authorities have already - at least from some points of view - already adopted much harsher measures against loiterers, often playing Barry Manilow music in various public spaces so as to move on the time-rich young. ®

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