I want's me one of these!Plagued by teenagers? You'll like the sound of this
By Richard Alleyne
As a form of revenge against disruptive youth, it is almost too sweet - a device that annoys teenagers so intensely they have to disperse and loiter somewhere else.
Police have given their backing to a gadget that sends out an ultra high-pitched noise that can be heard only by those under 20 and is so distressing it forces them to clutch their ears in discomfort.
Teenagers Shaun Turner and Christian Percival feel the force
Eventually they can stand it no longer and have to move on.
But because the body's natural ability to detect some frequency wave bands diminishes almost entirely after 20, adults are completely immune to the sounds.
The Sonic Teenager Deterrent, nicknamed the Mosquito because of its sound, has proved so successful in warding off gangs from trouble-spots that it has been endorsed by the police and local authorities.
The Sonic Teenager Deterrent sends out 80-decibel bursts
The black box, which can be attached to the outside wall of shops, offices and homes, sends out 80-decibel bursts of pulsing sounds at up to 16khz. It sounds to youngsters like a demented insect or a very badly-played violin.
But for adults it is hardly detectable. What is more, shop owners can control the strength of the signal as the problem of loitering youths ebbs and flows - and it does not penetrate indoors.
The system was the brainchild of Howard Stapleton, a businessman and former electronics apprentice at British Aerospace, who was sick of youths hanging around outside his local shop and intimidating customers.
He remembered visiting a factory run by his father when he was 12 and finding the noise unbearable even though the adults with him were unmoved. He was told the high frequency was perceptible only to the ears of youngsters.
Working in his bedroom in Merthyr Tydfil, and using his four children as guinea pigs, he came up with a prototype of his device and asked the local shop to test it.
"I got it so that only my kids hated it and my fianceé and I were completely unperturbed," he said. "We put up the prototype outside the store and almost immediately people stopped congregating.
"The beauty of it is that the noise does not have to be loud, just pitched at the right level which affects teenagers.
"We didn't have any complaints from the other customers and it causes no physical damage. The 20-year-old mark is not absolute but 90 per cent of people under 20 can hear it and 90 per cent of people over 30 cannot."
Mr Stapleton, 39, whose company manufactures 50 of the £622 devices a week, has been inundated with requests for supplies.
A number of police forces and councils have endorsed the system and want to install them at troublespots.
Mr Stapleton said. "I even had a headmaster who wants to connect them to smoke detectors in his school toilets to stop the pupils smoking."
Insp Amanda Davies, of Staffordshire Police, which has given the device to shopkeepers in the Moorlands area, said: "It is controlled by the shopkeepers - if they can see through their window that there is a problem, they turn the device on for a few minutes until the group has dispersed. Shop owners have reported fabulous results."
Rochdale council is one of the first local authorities to adopt the device. Lee Durrant, a council spokesman, said: "If it proves a success, we would look to buy more units for shops, bus stations and anywhere we are experiencing problems."
Clare Pritchard, the manager of a McDonald's restaurant on the outskirts of Manchester, bought the device to ward off teenagers using the car park to meet and illegally drink alcohol. "It has definitely reduced the number of kids hanging around here," she said.
"None of my customers have complained, although some of the staff have said it is driving them mad."
During a test run in the car park yesterday, volunteers Shaun Turner, 14, from Biddulph, Cheshire, clasped his hands to his ears the minute he stepped outside. "I can't stand it," he shouted. "It's a loud, piercing noise. It feels like my ears will pop."
His friend Christian Percival, 13, from the same village, agreed: "It's very annoying. I don't think I've ever heard anything like it before."
Angela King, an audiology specialist at the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, said adults suffered progressive hearing loss from their 20s onwards and that the higher frequencies were the first to go.
She said. "The frequency at which it operates is at the very limits of our hearing and will be heard only by youngsters. It is like when people are young they can hear the noise of bats but not when they are older.
"Over the years cells in the inner ear die or are damaged and the ones that go first are the ones that hear higher frequencies."
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