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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 February 2008, 15:04 GMT
Use of 'Mosquito' splits estate
By Kim Catcheside
Social affairs correspondent, BBC News

mosquito
One eight-year-old boy said the device kept him awake at night
The Mosquito device, which emits an unbearable sound only heard by people under the age of 25, has been described as a "low-level sonic weapon" deployed on our children.

One place the device has been installed is the Greenstead estate in Colchester, which has had its share of problems with young people on the streets.

Greenstead is a sprawling warren of mostly local authority or former local authority homes. The Mosquito has been installed outside the Hunwick shopping centre at the bottom of the estate.

At first glance I was struck by the amount of CCTV equipment for what is a tiny row of shops, and just below the cameras I am pretty sure I can see a Mosquito device.

Immediately below it, a two year old is calmly munching her way though a packet of crisps, which seems to indicate that if the device works, it has not been turned on.

Only two of the shops on the small arcade are open - the betting shop and a grocery store.

The manager of the betting shop does not know anything about the Mosquito, but he does know that there has been a lot of trouble with kids in the past.

And now he says it has stopped. If that's the effect of the mosquito does that justify it's use?

Oh I was in bed - I live over the shops. It's always waking me up
Eight-year-old who lives above Mosquito device

"Yes of course," he says.

Outside, a smoker is having a cigarette.

Asked whether he feels the mosquito breeches his human rights, he exclaims: "Human rights! Nonsense!"

"I wouldn't care if they put a machine-gun post up there."

Neither had the device bothered two nearby teenagers, who had not even heard about its installation.

'Buzzing noise'

The idea of a sonic device that drives away young trouble-makers started to seem a little mythical.

But in a playground a few hundred yards away, where a group of young children are noisily enjoying themselves, one eight-year-old boy says he has heard the mosquito in operation.

Not only that, he says that it keeps him awake at night and that because his parents cannot hear it, he is afraid to tell them because he thinks they will not believe him.

"Oh that buzzing noise, yes, I've heard it," he says.

When?

It's not fair to target teenagers - adults drink and cause trouble too
Local teenager

"Oh a couple of nights ago - at about one o'clock."

What were you doing up at that time? I ask.

"Oh I was in bed - I live over the shops. It's always waking me up."

A little further past the playground, a pair of sisters aged 15 and 13 tell me they have heard it as well.

"It goes right though you, a sort of screeching noise," says one. "It rings in your ears for ages afterwards" says the other.

"It's not fair to target teenagers - adults drink and cause trouble too."

But other teens I met didn't agree. One 19-year-old said it was worth the inconvenience if it kept trouble makers away from the shops.

Another 13-year-old simply said the idea was "cool".



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