Britain, that country known for inventions such as the railway, football, the jet engine… and the Sonic Teenager Deterrent. This is the depths to which we seem to have sunk in the UK when it comes to dealing with problematic teenagers. See this summary from ITN, and this amusing piece in The Guardian. The device sends out sound at a constant 16kHz, a frequency that is uncomfortable to hear for young people and older ones cannot hear at all as the delicacy of the hair cells in the cochlea in the ear starts to decrease from the age of 18 onwards. Staffordshire police are apparently pioneering the use of the device to stop teenagers gathering threateningly outside shops.
There are 2 problems with this… The first is that it seems that the device is not really fully tested or functional, and that it can deter even legitimate visitors to a shop. Do we even know if the trend of cochlea decrease is the same for everyone? And what about the impact on animals..? I remember a sonic device being used to spur on horses in an old Dick Francis book. Could this thing make dogs or birds uncomfortable? Further, might a 30 year old have managed to keep very delicate cochlea and still hear the sound? Take this example, quoted from this United Press article:
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.”
Second, what sort of a state do we live in where we have to use audio deterrent to keep people away from places? The UK already has a ludicrous number of CCTV cameras to check on its citizens, but these at least do not make life physically uncomfortable in the way this sonic system will. And then there is the wider question: what are we doing to improve our society to avoid having groups of threatening teenagers loitering around outside shops? Maybe we should look to answer that one before private firms take the matter into their own hands, using the Sonic Teenager Deterrent to eradicate young people as if they are some kind of vermin.