Inventor of the Mosquito ‘anti-teenager’ device defends its use at Great Yarmouth McDonald’s restaurant

A Mosquito device outside the McDonald's in Great Yarmouth has proved controversial. Photo: George R

A Mosquito device outside the McDonald's in Great Yarmouth has proved controversial. Photo: George Ryan - Credit: Archant

A so-called 'anti-teenager' device installed outside a McDonald's restaurant has sparked a debate about the rights of youngsters.

A Mosquito device outside the McDonald's in Great Yarmouth has proved controversial. Photo: George R

A Mosquito device outside the McDonald's in Great Yarmouth has proved controversial. Photo: George Ryan - Credit: Archant

The Great Yarmouth outlet of the fast food chain has a Mosquito anti-loitering device installed, which emits a high-pitched buzzing noise with a frequency that can only be heard by those roughly under the age of 25.

MORE: 'If they want to get rid of teenagers, they are going to need something louder'It has been installed for a number of years and was used last week to disperse a crowd of young people causing a nuisance.

But teenagers in the town have reported getting headaches from the devices and civil liberties campaigners and youth advocates said it was an infringement of teenagers' human rights.

Police officers patrolling outside the McDonald's in Great Yarmouth. Photo: George Ryan

Police officers patrolling outside the McDonald's in Great Yarmouth. Photo: George Ryan - Credit: Archant

However the device is backed by retailer associations and its inventor.

Howard Stapleton invented the device after his daughter was harassed by a group of boys.

He said although his device was effective it should only be used as a device of last resort.

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A Mosquito device outside the McDonald's in Great Yarmouth has proved controversial. Photo: George R

A Mosquito device outside the McDonald's in Great Yarmouth has proved controversial. Photo: George Ryan - Credit: Archant

MORE: 'It is intimidating when you see a bunch of teenagers on the pavement'He praised Great Yarmouth McDonald's, stating: 'I am pleased to hear that the Mosquito is being used appropriately and effectively at this store, as it is at many thousands of installations around the world.

He hit back at comparisons between his invention, and the much louder pest repellers.

He said: 'To compare the Mosquito to a pest scarer is akin to comparing a water pistol to a gun. Pest scarers operate at a volume some 10 times higher than the Mosquito and have the potential to permanently damage hearing.

'The far quieter Mosquito works as the sound it produces was carefully designed to be both very annoying and difficult to ignore for anything more than a few minutes.

POLL: Have your say, what do you think about the device?'Its volume is such that those young enough to hear it often pass an active device without even noticing. Its safety has been attested to by numerous organisations including the NHS.'

However the devices have been slammed by civil rights organisation Liberty because it said it targeted any young person, including very young children and babies.

A spokesman stated: 'It assumes young people will behave badly, and doesn't affect adult law breakers at all.

'It is a disproportionate and unfair reaction to the bad behaviour of some children, often creating no-go areas for young people in their own towns.'

In 2010, an investigation by the Council of Europe called for the devices to be banned because they 'violate legislation prohibiting torture'.

The UK government responded saying they had no plans to ban the technology and they remain legal.

A McDonald's spokesman said the Mosquito device at its Great Yarmouth store had been in place for many years and was only used in extreme circumstances and as a last resort.

The science

The Mosquito works by exploiting a medical condition called presbycusis – or more simply put age-related hearing loss.

As we age, our ability to hear higher frequency sounds is reduced.

It is caused by a combination of genetics, environmental exposures and changes related to aging. It is progressive and irreversible, meaning it only gets worse.

The Mosquito works by emitting an alternating high-frequency tone at 16-18.5 kilohertz. It emits an irritating, high-pitched sound and is used to prevent teenagers congregating outside shops.

It switches on and off four times a second for up to 20 minutes which isn't audible to people over about 25 years of age, but is intensely irritating to people under that age.

It makes 'a noise that is impossible to ignore' because it takes advantage of presbycusis, which reduces our ability to hear high-frequency noises as we age.

Background

The Mosquito was invented by Howard Stapleton in 2005, and was originally tested in Barry, South Wales, where it was successful in reducing teenagers loitering near a branch of Spar.

Despite its success at reducing anti-social behaviour, and several thousand having been purchased and installed across the UK, they remain controversial.

The village of Glemsford near Sudbury, Suffolk installed one and said it had a massive impact on reducing anti-social behaviour.

The parish council chairman said at the time: 'We did have some issues and there is always a core of trouble makers who sadly spoil it for everyone else but the alarm has really made a difference.'

Kent County Council however banned Mosquito devices with its community services spokesman saying: 'The devices are abhorrent and give completely the wrong message to our young people.'

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