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Wednesday
Dec142005

The Ozzie Zapper

I've been thinking...about these beach blues - these "turf wars". What we need is a "deterrent" - something to stop these guys hanging out at the beach and causing trouble. And I think I've got the very thing. There's a bloke over my way making them.

A Welsh geezer has come up with a way of silencing rowdy teenagers.

Howard Stapleton has invented a device, he calls The Mosquito ("It's small and annoying") that emits a high-frequency pulsing sound that, he says, can be heard by most people younger than 20 and almost no one older than 30. The sound is designed to so irritate young people that after several minutes, they can't stand it and go away.

The idea came to Howard after remembering a visit to a factory when he was twelve. He opened the door to a room where workers were using high-frequency welding equipment and found he couldn't bear to go inside.

"The noise!" he complained.

"What noise?" the grownups asked.

Howard has taken the lesson he learned that day - that children can hear sounds at higher frequencies than adults can - to fashion a novel device that he hopes will provide a solution to the eternal problem of rowdy teenagers.

So far, the Mosquito has been road-tested in only one place - at the entrance to the convenience store in his hometown in South Wales. Surly teenagers used to plant themselves on the railings just outside the door, smoking, drinking, shouting rude words at customers and making regular disruptive forays inside.

"On the low end of the scale, it would be intimidating for customers," the owner said. "On the high end, they'd be in the shop fighting, stealing and assaulting the staff."

He planned to install a sound system that would blast classical music into the parking lot, another method known to horrify hang-out youths into dispersing, but never got around to it. But last month, Howard gave him a Mosquito for a free trial. The results were almost instantaneous. It was as if someone had used anti-teenager spray around the entrance where noisy youths used to hang out. Now there is no one.

At first, members of the usual crowd tried to gather as normal, repeatedly going inside the store with their fingers in their ears and "begging me to turn it off," the shopkeeper said. But he held firm and told them it was to "keep birds away because of the bird flu epidemic."

"It's loud and squeaky and it just goes through you", said one fifteen year old.

Some shops use other methods to deter teenagers - "zit lamps" drive them away by casting a blue light onto their spotty skin, accentuating any whiteheads and other blemishes.

Howard tried a number of different noise and frequency levels, testing a single-toned unit before settling on a pulsating tone which, he said, is more unbearable, and which can be broadcast at 75 decibels, within government auditory-safety limits. "I didn't want to make it hurt," he said. "It just has to nag at them."

Howard is considering introducing a much louder unit that can be switched on in emergencies with a panic button. It would be most useful when youths swarm into stores and begin stealing en masse, a phenomenon known in Britain as steaming. The idea would be to blast them with such an unacceptably loud, high noise - a noise inaudible to older shoppers - that they would immediately leave.

That's it! Loudspeakers with pulsating tones on every beach. No more louts and the older crew might get some waves too. I'm waxing up my board already. And if it works we should nominate Howard Stapleon for the Nobel Peace Prize.

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