Northeast Times

What's that buzz?

Chalf­ont play­ground in­stalls “mos­qui­tos”, devices that omit high-pitch sounds that can be heard by people between the ages of 13-25. The devices will be turned on after curfew to help pre­vent kids from gath­er­ing at the play­ground after hours. (Maria Pouch­nikova)

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The city is us­ing an ir­rit­at­ing sound that only young people can hear to keep them away from the Chalf­ont Play­ground in Mill­brook when it is closed for the day.

The idea be­hind the test pro­ject is to dis­suade youth from loiter­ing in­side or van­dal­iz­ing the Deer­path Lane play­ground, which only this year got an ex­pens­ive makeover, ac­cord­ing to Susan Slawson, the city’s re­cre­ation com­mis­sion­er.

“Young­er people have more sens­it­ive hear­ing than adults,” Slawson said. “The equip­ment broad­casts a fre­quency that is out­side of the nor­mal hear­ing range of adults but can still be heard by those un­der twenty-one years of age.”

Each night, about 10 o’clock, a high-fre­quency noise, like a mos­quito buzz­ing, is emit­ted from speak­ers moun­ted on the roof of the play­ground’s build­ing. Only kids roughly between the ages of 13 and 21 can hear the sound, be­cause as people age, their abil­ity to hear high-fre­quency noises di­min­ishes, Slawson said.

Any­one older than 25 prob­ably won’t hear the sounds put out by the Mos­quito, a device in­ven­ted six years ago in Wales and now mar­keted in the United States.

The anti-loiter­ing device “emits a harm­less, highly an­noy­ing sound,” ac­cord­ing to Mov­ing Sound Tech­no­lo­gies, whose tech­no­logy the city bought at a cost of $4,300.

At Chalf­ont Play­ground, the Mos­quito’s buzz is do­ing the job, Slawson said Fri­day in an in­ter­view.

When the play­ground re­opened in March after sev­er­al months of re­mod­el­ing, nine sur­veil­lance cam­er­as were in­stalled. The Mos­quito was set up in the spring, too, and se­cur­ity tapes told the story of its suc­cess after hours. The play­ground closes at 10 p.m. each day.

“Our ex­per­i­ence on the ef­fect­ive­ness is that the sur­veil­lance cam­er­as at the site have re­cor­ded a re­duced pres­ence of teen­agers after nor­mal op­er­at­ing hours, when the sys­tem is op­er­at­ing,” Slawson said in an e-mail to the North­east Times.

The Mos­quito’s son­ic nettle reaches from about 40 to 60 yards, ac­cord­ing to the man­u­fac­turer’s specs that Slawson sup­plied to the news­pa­per. It is turned on at the play­ground from about 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. via an auto­mat­ic timer, and its tones can be ad­jus­ted so people who are older than teens, or every­one, can hear the sound.

The Chalf­ont Play­ground is the first — and only — one in the city to get the Mos­quito, Slawson said.

If the city is sat­is­fied with the res­ults, will the Mos­quito buzz in oth­er fa­cil­it­ies?

That’s not yet de­cided, Slawson said.

“We haven’t dis­cussed put­ting it any­where else,” she said. ••

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You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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