Kimberly Paynter / WHYY
In Philadelphia, 30 parks and recreational centers are equipped with a small speaker called the mosquito. It blows a constant loud noise all night long – but one that only teenagers and young adults can hear.
Anyone over the age of 25 must be immune because their earphones are basically starting to die.
Philadelphia Parker's officials have installed the device since 2014, reported WHYY's Billy Penn, intending to shoo rowdy youngsters from the premises.
And it's not the only American city to do it. The mosquito's Vancouver-based manufacturer Moving Sound Technologies works with about 20 park departments around the country to implement the youth-repellent units, says President Michael Gibson.
It is supposed to prevent looting and vandalism of teenagers and young adults at public facilities. But some say that this age-based targeting is a form of prejudice.
Philadelphia City Council Member Helen Gym refers to the devices as "sonic weapons" – and she works to get them removed.
"In a city that is trying to handle gun violence and safe spaces for young people," the gym said, "how dare we come up with ideas funded by taxpayer dollars to turn young people away from the very places that was created for them? "
"It feels a little [discriminatory] against teens," agreed 17-year-old Philadelphia resident Lamar Reed. "It makes us feel like animals. Not all teenagers are bad, just because we want to go outside for a fresh breath at night."
Despite the intended 13 to 25 year old target area, 27-year-old Mary Kate Riecks said she could hear the mosquito installed a few blocks from her Fishtown home. It gives her headache when she turns around in the neighborhood, she said.
"It's almost more like a feeling than a sound. It's a little behind your head," Riecks said. "At least for me it gives me a headache if I'm near it for too long. So I usually jump around in this block or go down very quickly."
Riecks has approached her breakpoint – she and her housemates have brainstormed a door-knock plan to organize the neighborhood against the unit and work to get it removed.
There is a precedent for banning the mosquito. Locations all over the world have already rejected the unit.
Washington, DC, officials installed anti-kid noisemakers at the Gallery Place subway station in 2010. The National Youth Rights Association took the case almost immediately and members filed a complaint regarding age discrimination. . The city asked the manufacturer to remove the units.
"By being aware of that, we could make it a big deal," said NYRA president Brian Conner, 20. "We could make it clear that they would be in a lot of trouble if they continued to use this unit. "
In 2008, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child called on the United Kingdom to" re-examine … the mosquito units to the extent that they had to violate children's rights. "Since then, more counties in England have followed and prohibited the unit from certain public spaces.
But in Philadelphia, Parks & Recreation defends the use of the mosquito and says that the units are in operation from 8 am. Only at. 6, and they are only part of an overall anti-vandalism strategy that includes fences and gates, security cameras and night watchmen.
Currently, the city is continuing with the installation. Despite the backlash, two new mosquito units are installed on other playgrounds as part of major renovation projects.