Questions raised over Mosquito device ahead of New South Wales trial
Sunday, June 23, 2013
A device known as the Mosquito, set to be trialed in New South Wales (NSW), Australia by RailCorp in a bid to deter vandals from areas frequently the target of graffiti, is attracting criticism. Wikinews reached out to several people about the trials.
The units work by emitting a high-pitched buzz, similar to that of a mosquito, which is generally only audible to those under the age of about 24. The aim is to repel young people who become irritated by the noise, as a prevention method against graffiti, loitering, and other crimes like theft.
The initiative was announced last month, but RailCorp has not revealed when it intends to test the technology to crack down on graffiti.
In an interview with Wikinews, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties Cameron Murphy this week labeled the strategy "ridiculous". "All they're going to do is wear headphones and these [devices] will make no difference at all."
Thousands of units have been set up in the UK since they first became available about seven years ago, where they're used to stop youths gathering near public areas like shops and train stations. The technology has a high usage rate in the UK, and the Council of Europe has called for a ban on grounds it violates human rights, calling it "highly offensive".
A RailCorp spokesperson confirmed to Wikinews the devices would only be situated on railway land away from public areas.
Mr Murphy maintains the NSW government's policy is "based upon discrimination" and it assumes the youth affected by the noise are those doing graffiti, without solid evidence to prove this.
NSW Liberal MP Gareth Ward told Wikinews, "very few crime fighting techniques are fool-proof," and as people have found ways to get around CCTV, they're like to do the same with this, which is why it's only being trialed at this stage. He acknowledged the devices will be situated in areas where the general public shouldn't be hanging around. "There are certain areas in the network where trains may not be travelling at a particular time and that's when those devices will be turned on [...] and I think that's perfectly reasonable." He remarked, "any young person who feels they've been aggrieved [...] should feel free to contact the Minster for Transport."
A mobile phone message tone based on the same mosquito sound has been touted as teacher-proof because teens should be the only ones able to hear it if it goes off during class.
- Mark Townsend. "Teenager-repellent 'mosquito' must be banned, says Europe" — The Observer, June 20, 2012
- Mark Morri. "Sydney's State Rail to trial high-pitched devices to get vandals to buzz off" — The Daily Telegraph (Australia), May 28, 2013
- Melissa Block. "Teens Turn 'Repeller' into Adult-Proof Ringtone" — NPR, May 26, 2006