Bzzzzzzzzz Off, Teens: If You Can Hear That Sound Then You Shouldn't Hang Out Here, Says Broadway Plaza

Shopping center taps into electronic gadgetry to combat loitering in its parking garage. Is this fair? Take our poll!

Broadway Plaza has installed a unique security device — an electronic gadget that emits a high-frequency, unpleasant sound most adults cannot hear — to discourage teenagers from loitering, Walnut Creek Patch has learned.

Shelly Dress, senior property manager for , confirmed Wednesday that one of the devices was installed in the “back corner” of the center’s parking garage, across the street from .

Dress said the device has been in place for about 18 months. It has helped to cut down on the number of teens who congregate in that part of the garage, she said. The parking structure is close to .

The device is known by various names. In Great Britain, where the gadget was first used commercially, it’s known as the “Mosquito,” a name bestowed by its inventor, Howard Stapleton. In the U.S., one brand is marketed as the SonicScreen. Dress wasn’t sure what brand was installed at Broadway Plaza.

It works by emitting a pulsing sound at a very high frequency, about 17.4 kHz,  that can usually be heard only by people in their teens and early 20s. The ability to hear high frequencies declines as people age. According to the SonicScreen manufacturer, the sound is undetectable by people over age 25 or under 12 and cannot be heard by animals.

Similar technology has been used to create cellphone ring tones that teenagers can hear in, for example, a classroom, while their teachers can't.

Teenagers often describe the noise as a high-pitched buzz.

“Most customers can’t hear it,” Dress said. She added that even people young enough to hear the noise aren’t especially bothered by it if they just park and then walk away.

“But if they are loitering, it becomes annoying,” she said.

The device, which appears to be a metal box, is mounted on the ceiling of the parking structure.

Dress said only one of the devices was installed at Broadway Plaza.

“That’s the only area where we have had loitering,” she said. The device is not meant to prevent teenagers from parking in the structure, she added.

Commercially, similar devices are marketed as security tools to discourage loitering, drug use, vandalism and graffiti at businesses and parks. In Europe the Mosquito has been a source of controversy, with detractors saying it infringes on the human rights of young people.

Lt. Bryan Hill of the said the department was not aware of the device and was not consulted about its installation.

Sharon Vaknin November 03, 2011 at 04:46 PM
Wow, this is a classic case of discrimination. If loitering is prohibited, then it should be forbidden for ANYONE to loiter. By installing an anti-loitering device that only affects young people, Broadway Plaza is committing a serious offense.
Triple Canopy November 03, 2011 at 08:24 PM
I wanna put one in my house.
Judy November 03, 2011 at 08:54 PM
And so the junk and drugs and the loitering is legal? What is an establishment suppose to do when some of the younger people break the law? I don't think that the Broadway Plaza did anything wrong other than to protect themselves the best they can.Is that discrimination that the younger people think they can target a area and hang out there? If we think that everything that our younger generation does is OK, then let them hangout at your place.
michael frederick November 03, 2011 at 09:25 PM
Judy, There are laws governing "junk and drugs and the loitering." If a law is broken, it can be enforced. This beeper, however, does discriminate and send a clear message. What concerns me is the presence of an affluent "DESTINATION" shopping complex that views indigenous neighbors as vermin. Instead of fitting in, it discriminates to promote an exclusive status FOR VISITORS to our shores. It is the alien influence at the heart of the city, not our kids! Does "if we think that everything that our younger generation does is OK" include socializing with friends? Really? The message is clear, downtown increasingly is a place where young people are not welcome. I object to the notion that they should be restricted to the Las Lomas reservation. That, in no small measure, is why I think we need to refuse Broadway's attempts to expand its operations by rewriting the General Plan, so it can better serve barren, stuck-up old coots whose only appreciation for the city is that they like to shop, dine, and view (crappy) art there.
Jan Cosgrove November 03, 2011 at 10:04 PM
We have these in the UK, the damn things were invented here. Our Govt has just been told by its own rights advisers it's unfair and unlawful. They are convenient for the sorts of folk who think they have a right to say who's on the street and to become (electronic?) vigilantes to get their way. But imagine someone saying they didn't want to see a load of old folk sitting outside their store on a park bench and turned a high-pressure hose to clear them .... It's a message we give out to kids - we don't want to see you HERE so we'll drive you away and we don't give a fruitbowl if it shreds their rights under law including a Constitution they're told to respect as the best in the world. Curfews the same - "convenience law". Then folk moan about kids' lack of respect. They learn only what we teach them, more our actions than our fine words. Someone wants it on their house? So they switch it on when my kids play in the garden or outside, I can't hear it, my baby screams and I don't know why. It's your fault you SoB. I'm buying a high-pressure hose to use every time you step onto the streets. That's your morality, that is. Slob. How you moan when you whinge "my rights" but not a cuss about others went it doesn't suit.
WC-Independent November 03, 2011 at 10:52 PM
Would it be ok If I parked my RV in the Broadway garage for a month or two. Just to relax and hang out. Maybe have a BBQ with some friends and catch some sun sitting on top of it. If not then they are discriminating against RV owners!
michael frederick November 03, 2011 at 11:39 PM
WC-Independent, If you aren't breaking any laws, GO FOR IT. If you are, WCPD will be in touch.
Mom of the Horde November 03, 2011 at 11:43 PM
Why are kids hanging out in a parking lot again? Because there aren't many places accessible to teenagers, outside of school, where they can just sit and socialize.
obiwan November 04, 2011 at 01:16 AM
Broadway Plaza made the mistake of installing a device that is billed as a deterrent ... something to purposefully chase teenagers away. They could have avoided the bad press and accomplished the same results with a speaker system playing the greatest hits of Lawrence Welk. ANNA one ANNA two ...
obiwan November 04, 2011 at 01:18 AM
Actually, isn't that back corner of the parking structure owned by Macys?
Jan Cosgrove November 04, 2011 at 01:30 AM
Freedom of assembly is legal
Jan Cosgrove November 04, 2011 at 01:32 AM
No freedom of assembly doesn't include parking your RV, it does kids gathering and not breaking the law. Easy. Same in UK.
Jan Cosgrove November 04, 2011 at 01:33 AM
Sadly some stores just play classical and most kids move on.
WC-Independent November 04, 2011 at 01:48 PM
CC, they have added stores for young adults so it seems downtown views them as customers (e.g. forever21, tillys) Also, piercings and tattoos are no indicator of a child's behavior.
m sheridan November 04, 2011 at 02:52 PM
Yes, Obiwan--- turn up the bubble machine, but Aurthur Duncan will have to tap dance elsewhere (political correctness ya know). Tank you boys and gurlz


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