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By Meranda Watling

March 15, 2009

LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Jefferson High School administrators have a new way to get students to move along between classes rather than congregate in the hallway.

Annoy them.

In the past week, the school installed a "mosquito." The $800 machine, developed in Wales, emits a high-pitched noise that teens can hear but most adults over 25 can't.

The idea is to keep students flowing rather than block the stairs and elevator in one particular first-floor hallway.

"We don't mind if students are congregating," said assistant principal Roger Francis, who came up with the idea after seeing the product last summer at a school safety conference. "In different areas, it's fine. But this creates an issue of, in an emergency, we couldn't get through."

To 17-year-old junior Ginell Carswell, the noise emitted in the hall near the radio-TV department "sounds like nails on a chalkboard."

"It's extremely squeaky," Carswell said. "I hold my ears when I walk by."

But for Jeff staff, who say that particular hallway has been a bottleneck for years, the point is students are walking by and not stopping to chat there. There are no plans to install more machines.

Although the noise hasn't completely eased the congestion in the hall, some students say it has helped.

"Before, I couldn't get to my class – no way, no how. It was clogged all down the hall," sophomore Skylar Sanders said. "... I think it's a good idea. I know I'm not late to class anymore."

The mosquito was initially created to deter groups of teens from hanging out near shops in the United Kingdom. It's been used throughout Europe, Canada and is gaining in popularity in the U.S., said Mike Gibson, president of MosquitoGroup.com, which sells the machine.

Gibson said Jeff's use "is actually a unique deployment." Mostly, he said, schools use the machine outside to discourage vandalism at night or in the parking lot after sporting events to encourage rowdy crowds to disperse.

Lata Krishnan, director of the Audiology Clinic at Purdue University, said the machine works on the premise that as you age you lose some hearing ability. Typically, first to go are higher frequencies.

She said, according to the company's documentation, the loudness of the sound and the duration seem to be within safe limits.

"The level as well as the duration of the sound are important when considering the 'safety' of the noise," Krishnan said. "It appears that the company has considered the level of the sound."

The school didn't initially tell students about the machine, Francis said. They wanted to just see if it worked.

"I didn't know what it was, I thought something was wrong with the school," 16-year-old Stephanie Gonzalez said. "It gets annoying, but I think it helps a little bit."

However, not every student – such as Gonzalez's 16-year-old cousin, Brenda Gonzalez – can hear the noise. And some, including 17-year-old Levi Hawkins said, "I've learned to block it out."

Not every adult is immune, either.

Kelly Kerns teaches English in the only classroom within hearing distance of the machine. She's 33 years old but said she can hear the squeal, which sounds like ringing in your ear: "It's annoying, but it doesn't hurt."

Plus, she's already noticed some benefits. She used to have to tell people not to stand in her doorway. Not anymore.

"I think it definitely helps to deter them," she said. "I don't know that I necessarily like the method, but the result ... it is getting them to move."

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Testimonials

  • SHAUN MORRIS, Security Manager Northern Property, Yellowknife, NT

    The Mosquito works great for us, Our problem with panhandlers & homeless people hanging out has dramatically improved since we installed the mosquito.

    We left it on full time during business hours for the first few weeks and after that we were able to turn it off and just use it periodically as needed.

  • Carmen Ramirez, Park Avenue Enterprises LLC, New York, NY

    "It was amazing! Immediately the Mosquito effectively cleared out the loitering teens from the troubled area without hassle or confrontation."

  • Wade Rohloff, Graphic Safety, Hobbs, NM

    "The mosquito worked perfectly last night. I got it hooked up just in time for some kids to show up and make a lot of noise. After I turned it on they began complaining and left shortly thereafter. This thing is amazing."

  • Sarah Ward, PC 1623

    "Regarding the Mosquito apparatus that we have recently been using in our area, this is just a note to say that we have been extremely pleased with it.

    We have also had a positive reaction regarding its use from members of the public. In short, it has been an all-round success."

  • Lincolnshire Police

    "It is still presently sited at an old folks complex and is giving them a long awaited respite from ASB."

    Colin Hill PC 879
    Lincolnshire Police
    ASB Officer - South Holland District Council

  • David Meade, Millennium Place Primary Condominium, Boston, MA

    "The Mosquito has been effective. It has been implemented with other low echelon security measures and the results have been absolutely amazing. If the comparison prior to the mosquito install is made to present, we have seen a 95% to 98% decrease in activity and incidents in the stairwell."

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