Imagine sitting on your front patio on a warm summer day trying to read, or study, and be disturbed by a constant high frequency sound. The device that is responsible for this disruption is ‘the mosquito’. A Welsh company made this device several years ago in an attempt to rid the public of loitering youth and vandalism, since it plays a high frequency that only youth can hear. For some, this may sound like a decent idea; it would definitely be nice to solve community vandalisms! But in my opinion, having a high-pitched device that can only be heard by ‘youth’ under twenty-five is extremely controversial. Negatively targeting a specific age group is not a healthy public policy.
The environment in which we live is supposed to be inclusive to all, and not segregate based on age, gender, race, or other factors. Policies relating to the built environment are generally trying to encourage being outside and physically active. The incorporation of more bike lanes and the beautification of pedestrian walkways into new construction areas are some of the positive changes currently being made to our city. I find that the idea surrounding the mosquito deterrent is doing completely the opposite, and promoting a negative image towards youth and discouraging the ‘under twenty-fives’ in their attempts to be outside in locations where the buzzer is heard.
Policing public space goes private
Originally the ‘mosquitoes’ were meant to be placed in prominent public spaces such as malls and schools, and turned on after closing hours to stop the kids and young adults of the neighbourhood from lingering and causing chaos. Problems arise when people decide to take anti-loitering action into their own hands and install a ‘mosquito’ in their homes. Of course they don’t mind, since they are over the age threshold to hear the certain frequency. Heck, they might not even remember that they have it.
Currently in Vancouver there are no laws against these high-frequency devices. In Lower Lonsdale of North Vancouver, where I was living, someone in one of the surrounding condos installed this ageist deterrent and has it constantly turned on, day and night. During the summer when I was trying to enjoy the beautiful views and sunshine outside I was repeatedly forced to move inside because I could not handle the loud constant sound. I do not believe this is the welcoming built environment that community planners had in mind.
Re-thinking exclusion and inclusion along the life-span
When these devices are installed in residential areas, its portrayal is very “anti-young people”. Is this what we want Vancouver’s message to be to the younger generation? If there were a surge in crime rate from people over the age of thirty would we create statues that squirted water at them every time they wanted to walk around their neighbourhood? This probably wouldn’t happen. Not all people under the age of 25 are going to linger around back yards and graffiti garages; many young people just want to sit outside and enjoy their city. Young adults and youth in Vancouver deserve as much respect as any other age group; they are the future leaders, politicians, and public policy representatives. Promoting outdoor activity at a young age will create positive habits that will benefit the health care system and future generations to come.
By Caitlin Pugh
Caitlin is a Research Assistant for the ASAP Junior and Senior research programs, and is currently studying Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University. She hopes to continue on to grad school to pursue research on the built environment and neighbourhood walkability.