Anti-teen noise-weapon comes to the USA

Mark sez, "You guys have written before about these anti-teen noisemakers before when they were used in the UK. Well, they're being deployed in the US now and, inevitably, someone is not happy about it..."

"It's horrible, loud and irritating," said Eddie Holder, 15, who sprinted from his apartment for school one morning covering one ear with his hand to block out the noise. The device was installed outside the building to drive away loiterers. "I have to hurry out of the building because it's so annoying. It's this screeching sound that you have to get away from or it will drive you crazy.

"A spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union said the organization does not have a position on the issue. But James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Boston's Northeastern University, said that putting crowd-monitoring devices in the hands of private businesses and citizens is "dangerous.""


See also:
Anti-teenager sound weapon
Kids turn "teen repellent" sound into teacher-proof ringtone
High-pitched, anti-teen alarm is now ringtone, techno track

(Image: Creepy Mosquito Powerpoint slides)


  1. How is this any different from assault? If it’s right outside a building, doesn’t that mean it affects the street; public property I pay taxes on?

    If someone walked up to me and shoved a recording of the Mosquito tone into my ear, I’d react first with a plea to cut it out, then move away- IF I was in an area I wasn’t welcome in.

    If it was an area I had the right to be in, I’d be tempted towards violence but probably end up calling the cops.

    This tone -hurts-. I’m looking forward to the degradation of my eardrums so I can’t hear it play on occasion as a ringtone.

    ACLU, get a position on this and get working. PLZKTHX.

  2. Actually the mall near where I live here in NY has had one of these for several years. Might be a different model though. Its got this sort of high pitched ear splitting chirp thing going on. Thing is I’m in my mid twenties, and I can still hear the damned thing. As can my mother, who’s almost 50.

    so frankly I don’t think these things work as advertised.

  3. Freedom of speech and all that.

    You can have your music turned up loud, and it doesn’t matter if your elderly-next-door-neighbor really hates norwegian death metal, you have that right. Between certain hours, of course.

    This anti-teenage system DOES obey the curfew laws, right? It turns off after a certain time? If not, the kids look like they might be able to press charges for violation of noise curfew.

  4. I wonder if those devices could be more or less defeated by wearing those (easily available) disposable foam earplugs that sound engineers often use.

    And BTW, $1500 for what is basically a Motorola tweeter with a power oscillator in a box – production cost less than $50 – sure is an easy way of making money.

  5. Here’s a teen repelent for you in three words “Lawrence, Welk, Show”. In fackt I thought I read about some Circle K stores piping it out into their parking lots and poof! No more loitering!

  6. Yeah…if there had been one of those on my building when I was a teenager, we would have had a battle: Which is louder? The system, or my stereo cranked to 11 and playing Einstürzende Neubauten.

  7. @7 George Curious,
    The WUNNERFUL WUNNERFUL Lawrence Welk Show?
    @3 Qubex,
    No, because teenagers have curfews that more or less coincide with noise curfews. And for injuring decibel level noises, I’m sure there is a clause. You can’t just launch a rocket anywhere because it makes a loud boom that is debilitating to eardrums. I imagine this sound is, too.

  8. James Alan Fox fails to realize that this is not a ‘crowd-monitoring’ device but a ‘crowd-mitigating’ device. If this is deployed by private citizens to protect private property, then neither the ACLU or any other group holds a valid opinion on the subject.

  9. Gods damn them all. I really want to kill these people. You might be allowed to make teenagers go away from your property, but you don’t have the right to hurt them when they’re just walking past.

    Fuck these people with a big thorny stick.

  10. “Does not have a position on this issue”?
    They’re a bit shite aren’t they?
    How about “it’s collective punishment and we think it fucking stinks.”

  11. If this is deployed by private citizens to protect private property, then neither the ACLU or any other group holds a valid opinion on the subject.

    Using that doctrine, I’m free to generate a cloud of cyanide gas on my property, which can then blow into public space. Noise is regulated by law in most cities.

  12. Jamblichus 14: THERE we go! That’s the concept I was looking for. This makes me angry because…well, as if we don’t maltreat teenagers ENOUGH in our warped culture. But it’s collective punishment, and that stinks out loud, and you’re absolutely right.

    Shorter: Hear, hear.

  13. @16

    No, you are not. Because cyanide is a federally controlled, hazardous substance, that requires permits and compliance. To deploy cyanide to prevent teenagers from gathering on your property, would create an environmental hazard, as well as a hazard to public health and safety, that you cannot control. That could be construed as ‘reckless disregard’ and if it were to be combined with a possible death, you would be the next one breathing the cyanide. The teenagers, on the other hand, can just walk away from the ‘annoying sound’.

  14. All of the above commenters seem to be looking for legislative or juridical solutions. There is an easier one, at least in this case. The young man, and if he gets no where (the chances of which are depressingly high) then his parents, should talk to their apartment manager and complain.

    In a more systematic sense, a property owner has the right to play whatever noises-including these high-pitched tones-at whatever volume he pleases assuming it does not violate noise (or other applicable) ordinances. If a business owner has one of these and you dislike them for whatever reason (including being able to hear it #2) then decline them business and the forces of the market will work their magic.

  15. @Qubex: I don’t know about that cranked-up death metal.

    The California town I live in has a noise ordinance that limits how loud things can be at the property line, with different values in decibels depending on the zoning and time of day. You can get cited for exceeding the ambient noise level at the property line by 5 decibels, which isn’t much.

    It’s also illegal here to use “a loudspeaker or sound amplifying equipment” for commercial purposes “except within a completely enclosed building”. Realistically, they’re not busting the guy who drives the ice cream truck. But private property or not, I’d guess if one of these gadgets were installed on the outside of a store, and somebody complained to the cops or the town, the store owner would have to take it down.

  16. what if you drove them away by making them do science?
    Unfortunately for you the chemical found in apple seeds is NOT cyanide, it’s amygdalin (also known as vitamin B17), which is a glycoside having the formula C20H27NO11. It’s metabolized to hydrogen cyanide during digestion. But if you want to extract it here’s what I’d suggest.

    1) Extract the amygdalin from a large number of apple seeds using a soxhlet extractor using boiling ethanol as the solvent.
    2) Evaporate off the solvent using a rotavap
    3) Add diethyl ether to precipitate out the amygdalin as white crystals
    4) Filter the crystals and solution through filter paper attached to a vaccum aspirator
    5) Place in a batch reactor containing the enzyme beta glucosidase to split off the two sugars and leave the hydrogen cyanide
    6) Purfiy and enjoy!

  17. Actually, classical music does the same job less offensively:
    There is one example, but I learned of it from my local gas station. They had a problem with teen loitering. Then they got a music system. They started up their music and played classical because that is what they had, and lo and behold, the teens went away! They could not stand the stuff.

  18. A thought:

    The tone should be pretty pure, methinks. Amplify the tone, pass it through a 180 degree phase shift network, and emit a tone that cancels the offensive tone. It can be surprisingly effective.

  19. What about people with sensory issues? My son, for example, has sensory issues with his hearing in association with his autism. Some sounds are literaly painful for him. The ice cream truck that comes through my neighborhood causes him to cover his ears and hide in the farthest room in the house. I would hate to walk through a business district with my kid holding his ears and screaming in terror because some douche bags want to chase away a few teens. I’m suprised the ACLU hasn’t considered that since autism has become so visual in the media lately.

  20. I’d think there’s a real potential for causing permanent hearing loss. Sounds like lawsuit material to me. Meantime, I recommend ear plugs. If the management complains that no-one is listening, well, they can turn the thing off.

  21. @27- That’d be a fun trial.
    “My client can no longer hear this high-pitched tone, which I will now play for the jury…none of whom are likely to be able to hear it either. And my client would have naturally lost the ability to hear it in a few years, too. Umm…but it’s traumatic and stuff.”

  22. Maybe these kids should just crank up their mp3 players and go to loud concerts and nightclubs to blow out their hearing (which is probably why all of us 30-somethings can’t hear it). That’ll teach those store owners.

  23. In addition to noise ordinances, you can rely on the common law tort of public sonic nuisance as grounds for getting an injunction against one of these things.

    I don’t know how far the American judiciary has conceptually stretched “freedom of speech”, but noise nuisance is often anything “beyond the aesthetic.” There’s definitely an aesthetic to watching how one of these things tortures people, but I don’t think that would outweigh the public inconvenience.

  24. Hmm. I’m comparatively new to Boing Boing, so maybe the discussions of 180 degree phase shift networks and cyanide come with the territory, but I have to say I do take a very different angle. And hence if someone put one of those things up in a neighbourhood I lived in, I’d do the following:
    Call the local rag, tell them they’ll have a good story for tomorrow’s edition if they come to said location at said hour. Find a sledgehammer. Hold a brief press conference in which I’d state the following:
    “I think the above gizmo is illegal under international law, and here’s why: Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. ‘No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.’
    Yes I know that is meant to apply to war time scenarios, but if the above are bad in wartime, I’d say they’re a damn sight worse in peacetime. I therefore feel entirely justified in taking a sledgehammer to the above.
    Thank you for your attention.”
    And then I’d go and have a pint.

  25. I think it would be funny to see a bunch of kids hanging at one of these places with noise-canceling headphones on that nix that particular frequency for them.

    They could loiter around, play dice and gamble with each other’s headphones.

  26. @31 Jamblichus,
    This conversation is BoingBoing grasslands.

    Go check out the Vat-grown-Meat thread, now that’s the wild BoingBoing jungle, full of creeping things.

    I quite like your idea. I might organize a group to post bail.

  27. I wonder if a modified green laser could burn up those speakers?

    or something like this?

    I mean, I’m not promoting it… wouldn’t want to catch the whole building on fire or anything. But, if I was teenager… I’m pretty sure I would “carefully” do it if the speaker was against non-flammable brick like in that picture BB posted. It would be a pretty stealth solution to an annoying problem.

    I mean, I’m not promoting it… but I’d probably have my pal go inside and use TV-B-Gone as a diversion while I fried the shit out of those speakers outside.

    Kids, don’t do that…

  28. Why do people believe teenagers are the only ones who can hear it? I’m in my 30s and the sound is clear and annoying. I played it and my partner, who is pretty deaf in one ear, asked `What the hell is that? It hurts!’. She’s 30.

    What happens to babies? What happens when someone who can’t hear it ties their dog to a pole outside the building?

  29. They installed something like this at one of our light rail transit stations. I can understand playing this when there are loiterers and what have you, but they play it all the bloody time, and it’s loud.

    I can hear the sound really clearly, and it hurts. Waiting for a train to arrive, especially when there are problems on the tracks, is a very unpleasant experience (once again, if it were activated and not just playing on a loop, such things could be avoided).

    I’m 37, for god’s sake. I agree: who says teens are the only ones that can hear this stuff? My wife (of similar age) cannot hear the tones themselves but still feels a distinctly unpleasant sensation when the sound is playing.

    This is the 21st century equivalent of those car alarms that would go off on the parking lot when you just walked by the car: their indiscriminate nature pissing off those who are minding their own business overabundantly compared with their “intended targets”.

  30. Most of you who have heard it – and are above 25 – have likely heard a compressed (ie: MP3) version of the sound [you listened online, didn’t you!?], or heard it through old/crappy speakers that have degraded the quality of the noise, the end result being that it now has low fidelity and is in the normal audible range.

    Another possibility is that you are hearing it in an environment where there is a constant high-pitch noise (I know my headphones produce a low-decibel high-pitched sound when the volume it turned up and nothing is playing), which interferes with the Mosquito sound, making it slightly more audible.

    Side note, I’ve yet to be exposed to it in person, but the little high-pitched noises emitted from my tv, fan, and _various other appliances_ are enough to drive me insane on a bad day. I’d hate to hear them at the 75 decibels that bad boy produces!

  31. I’m 37 and I can hear these things.

    People use stuff like this to keep cats away in Japan (where I live). They’re fucking everywhere. Supposedly only cats can hear them, but they really hurt my ears. It’s piercing.


    Government ministers are calling for it to be banned in the UK.

    I haven’t been aware of any of these being used in my area (I’m of the age when I can still hear them, but not of the age to be still hanging around outside), but I would have thought these devices would pretty much guarantee your shop/property getting vandalised/egged/graffitied.

  33. I’m sorry, but for plenty of people in their 20s and 30s, that sound is absolutely teeth-gnashing. Any business that makes use of the anti-teen chirp will get what they deserve: fewer customers.

  34. I reckon this could be classified as age discrimination because it only works on young people. You might be able to cancel it out if you record reverse the polarity of the waves and play it back though a different speaker. Kind of like those noise canceling headphones.

  35. I have to admit- when I first heard of these- I wanted one for my property. I live on a dark corner and teens used to like hanging out around my yard, despite being asked several times (nicely at-first) to bugger-off.

    But- I’ve heard several recordings of the sound, as well as the copy-cat “secret” ring-tones that were really hot a year ago. I’m over 40, and I could hear it quite clearly. So- I really don’t think this works as well as advertised. I also have to agree that the cost of the thing is a total rip-off. If a local business used one of these- they will guarantee I won’t patronize them, and I’m sure other adults that can hear the noise would do the same.

    My ultimate solution was new flood-lights outside. Very low-tech, but a lot cheaper and it worked.

  36. If only this was a repellant machine for X

    let X=rednecks, blacks, jews, catholics, muslims, the group you hate

    I guess it is OK in Amerika to hate “those damn kids”

  37. As others mentioned, I don’t see how this can possibly be OK under most municipal nuisance laws… I predict dismal failure for this company.

  38. I have developed a similar device. Here it is:

    for (;;) {

  39. @ #46; At $1500 a pop the company I’m sure has already covered any start up expenses and now is just on the gravy train. I doubt they have any long term goals for the company.

  40. Hmm. ISTM that the 15yo (or, at least, his parents if they are at all sympathetic to the kid) who lives in the apartment building to which this thing has been attached would have a case against it. It is a device that makes it uncomfortable/painful for him to enter or leave his home.

    Sounds like assault and/or battery to me, though IANAL. Complain to the landlord, if no relief complain to some agency that has jurisdiction over the landlord and/or the property, then potentially move to small claims court or somesuch.

    If I lived there, and my infant daughter started being terrified of going home or leaving home, and I made the correlation to this device, I’d likely escalate to calling the cops on the landlord for assault/battery of my kid.

    If laughed off, or otherwise brushed off, and no relief could be found, one method to remove the source of irritation would be to “accidentally” back the corner of one of those rental box trucks into the thing. Should be able to fold the mirror tight enough against the cab to allow the box to all but scrape the side of the building while positioning it “just right” to get the couch to the door… Get the simple add-on insurance that covers minor damage in the rental contract, and you’re golden (Again, IANAL). Baseball bat or other direct methods would be simpler, but the intent would be far clearer in the eyes of any video cameras.

    @TOFOOMEISTER: The 180 degrees out of phase idea may be capable of creating a “safe passage” corridor (for static installations), or “cone of silence” feature (for mobile applications) for someone entering or exiting the building, but I don’t know that it would be able to blow the speaker on the thing without someone actively turning the device’s volume up to speaker-damage level while the damping is on, then having the damping abruptly cut off. I’ve seen the XKCD comic, and I’ve dreamed often of a “sound hole” weapon…


  41. Why should people have to complain? That’s what we have governments for! Hopefully there’s a total ban on the way in Scotland, the SNP has just called for one at its annual conference.

    @ #41 says “Government ministers are calling for it to be banned in the UK”; they aren’t, see the link given; if you live in the UK-except-in-Scotland you’ll have to throw up more noise.

  42. My local grocery store has one of these horrible things. I’m 22 and i can hear it. I hate that thing with a passion. Oh, and it doesn’t stop young teenagers from wreaking havoc outside of the store either.

  43. so, it’s torture when it is used to displace teens and/or others from places where they should not be, but it’s NOT torture when it is used in TV commercials that were played in waht was seemingly every commercial break during prime time TV?

    Commercial uses for Mosquito

  44. It seems that this device is being used indiscriminately.

    People who aren’t loitering, but merely passing through the area in question are getting nailed, which seems unfair.

    Unless these come with some kind of sensor that can measure the amount of time somebody has been loitering, they should be banned.

    And how well do they hold up to 9mm slugs? Any bets on how soon we see stories of these being shot off the side of buildings?

  45. just a balloon full of hilti foam. Sticks like hell, makes a huge mess, have a dozen grenadiers work together – DO NOT get it in your eyes

  46. What a horrible message to send to young people. Where and how are they going to find a place of comfort on this planet?. If this crap doesn’t result in more cultural pain it will be a miracle. Our leaders are pathetic . The very thought of this as an option came from a very sick brain.

  47. 2 posted by ryuthrowsstuff:

    “Actually the mall near where I live here in NY has had one of these for several years. Might be a different model though. Its got this sort of high pitched ear splitting chirp thing going on. Thing is I’m in my mid twenties, and I can still hear the damned thing. As can my mother, who’s almost 50.”

    WHen I was a kid, some of the department stores had this high-pitched thing, too. My mother asked about it, and SUPPOSEDLY, it’s to make people feel a little frantic and excited so they will spend more money. Kinda like the stuff they do in casinos. It never worked on us, though, becuase we just avoided that store.

  48. Sounds like mind control.. or subliminal stuff. Scary.

    I want it gone, and I am 35. And people wonder why kids hate us adults.

  49. I’m one of the old folks who can hear a lot of these. Even when the tone is super high, above 20khz, I can still feel it although I don’t hear it. I’m sure prolonged exposure would give me a headache. If anyone knows where one of these is, they should post the location. Maybe someone could even google map them. Then they can mysteriously get filled with caulk or smashed with a sledgehammer. It’s bad enough there’s cameras watching us, cops in riot gear with machine guns all over the streets in Manhattan, now we have to deal with noise weapons? Ridiculous.

  50. I bet that if it was old people repellent instead of young people repellent, these things wouldn’t be around for very long.

  51. I’d probably get an electric guitar, a drum kit composed by a floor tom and a snare and out-JAMC the thing.

  52. Just break it. The adults probably can’t hear if it’s working anyway. If they do, then they are probably tired of hearing it like you are.

    This device is offensive. Would it be ok for blind people to hang explicit pornography out their window in sight of children? No, and so this device is the same thing

    Heh – I’m 42 and I can hear 20Khz on my crappy work computer speakers – which is what the 19 year olds hear. I think my youthful punk bass tinnitis is catching up with me though.

  53. @39, rancor01

    Yet again, not helping. Human hearing range is up to 20khz, yet 22khz is still audible to my (very) old father. Unless you have a nice and tuned/tweaked audio setup, it is not putting out the right frequency, or not putting out only the right frequency. I’m not an audiophile (I don’t believe you need super expensive equipment for perfect sound), but I know you have to at least make a token effort when choosing your system and setting it up, or you end up with inferior output.

  54. I’m 16 years old, and already have minor tinnitus. The first time I heard this (from an iPhone, actually) I thought it was just that, but it was driving me nuts. It’s absolutely ear-shattering in both pitch and volume. I really don’t care whether or not this is audible for adults or if it’s possible for a cell phone to make the noise, frankly, I just think it needs to stop, now. All of the iPhone “mosquito” apps should be removed, and these should definitely not be sold to commercial owners who just want to keep teenagers-annoying or not-out of their stores. My tinnitus has been worsening as I’ve been hearing this blasted sound more and more. There’s no excuse for this, playing it in front of people who have tinnitus is like spraying tear gas at people who have asthma.

Comments are closed.