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Burnaby woman upset over 'Mosquito' noise

Sound emitting device used to deter loitering youths stuns her during Metrotown visit

Mosquitoes are a summer nuisance, but one "Mosquito" in particular is causing some concern for a Burnaby woman.

Melissa Franz is a 24-year-old Burnaby daycare worker who found out the hard way how Metropolis at Metrotown deals with youths who loiter by the overpass to the SkyTrain station.

On Aug. 15, at approximately 6 p.m., Franz was meeting her mother at the SkyTrain station and walked south, past the CIBC entrance/exit, when she was overcome by a strange noise.

"As soon as I walked out of the doors from Metrotown, I was overcome with this horrendous pain in my ears, my brain felt as if it was being scrambled, I couldn't move, and I can honestly say I felt incapacitated," said Franz. "As I was outside, unable to move and in pain that I can not even describe, a man came up to me and asked me if I was OK, I shook my head, no, and he helped me back in the mall. He explained to me that he thinks there may be a "high frequency" noise being used outside to deter the birds, as during that time they had a flower display outside atop by the entrance."

The flower display, also known as an eco-sculpture, is a popular Burnaby attraction, but when Franz contacted Derek Hurley, property manager at Metropolis at Metrotown, Franz discovered what had caused her problem.

"The high frequency noise you are referring to is emitted from a device called the Mosquito," wrote Hurley in an email to Franz. "The purpose of the device is not to deter birds, but to deter youth from congregating in that area of the plaza. The device emits a high-pitched frequency that is usually only audible by individuals under the age of 25. It is strategically positioned at the benches directly outside of the CIBC bank machine and is operational during periods when youth tend to congregate in this area. Since putting the Mosquito in place, we have seen a significant reduction in loitering, crime and vandalism at this entrance.

"The device impacts everyone differently, and in your case, it sounds like the effects were quite severe. I have asked our security team to review the device to ensure it is operating correctly and is on the appropriate setting. Furthermore, I have asked them to review the use of the device while the eco-sculptures are in place so that those patrons that want to enjoy the display are able to do so in comfort.

"I do apologize for the inconvenience caused."

Franz said she was disappointed by that response, simply because it tars all young people with a bad image.

"I'm under 25 and I'm not loitering," she said. "I'm on the way to shop and to use the services. . CIBC is my bank and now I can't use the bank machine," she said.

Franz said she now has to avoid the area and the only way she can access the SkyTrain station from the mall is by going on the ground level, through the busy bus loop.

"I have to avoid the (upstairs) area and that's just not right," she said.

Franz does have sympathy for the mall's challenges with loitering youths.

"I think they should (increase) security in the areas that Metrotown thinks are prone to vandalism and crime, instead of putting those who are at risk of side effects from this device in harm's way," she said. "If this machine is necessary to have on, I feel it should be on only during non-mall hours (before and after).

"I know that this device does not affect everyone the same as it does me, and it saddens me that myself, who is not a problematic youth, has to suffer and feel the side effects of this device. If youth want to cause trouble or vandalize a building, they are going to do it no matter what. The annoyance of this noise is not going to deter them from causing trouble."

Brenda Longland, public and community relations manager, marketing, for Metropolis at Metrotown, said Franz's grievance was the first one the mall has received in the four years that the Mosquito has been used by the shopping centre.

"Like many properties round the Lower Mainland, e have this device installed n a number of locations on site nd have seen a notable decline f negative incidents in those ocations," said Longland. Upon receipt of the email from Ms. Franz, we inspected the unit to ensure it is functioning within its parameters and re-assessed the program. We stand behind our decision to keep the unit operational and in place as an effective tool in maintaining a safe and secure environment for the shoppers at Metropolis at Metrotown."

Longland was sympathetic to Franz's concerns.

"It's not our intention to cause anybody pain," she said. "We stand behind the use of the Mosquito. ... We believe it's doing the job."

The Mosquito, according to the website of one of the distributors of the device,, was invented in Wales and has been used by cities, municipalities, school districts and parks boards to combat vandalism.

The patented device is a small speaker that produces a high frequency sound much like the buzzing of a mosquito. This high frequency can be heard by young people 13 to 25 years old.

The latest version of the Mosquito has two different settings. When it is set to 17KHz, the Mosquito can only be heard by people approximately 13 to 25 years of age. When set to 8 KHz, the Mosquito can be heard by all ages.

The Mosquito can work with a timer, motion sensor or remote control - Longland confirmed that Metropolis at Metrotown uses a timer.

It starts working within a few minutes after setting it up. There is an auto cut-off feature at 20 minutes and there are four

types of volume selection options. For the youth setting, the frequency comes out of the speaker in a 60 degree arc and can reach 80 to 130 feet, depending on the volume.

Franz doesn't think her situation is an isolated case.

"A friend of mine, who I will keep anonymous for the time being, actually suffers from seizures," said Franz. "She told me she had the exact same feeling when she visited Metrotown a few days ago, and I thought it was just her.

"I've heard that this device can cause harm to people with hearing devices, as well as young children. . I am wondering how many people have been affected by this, how many people are aware of this, how many people may have had problems due to this noise being used.

"I hope that . I can prevent Metrotown visitors from having the same awful experience as I did that day."