Fears over Asbo alarm that targets young people

Fears have been raised that a new alarm system that claims to combat antisocial behaviour might harm the young people it is meant to deter.

The device – which is called the Mosquito – issues a high pitch alarm that its distributor says can only be heard by young people under 25 due to the sensitivity of their hearing.

The first device was installed in a shop in Wales earlier this month, and now the manufacturers – Compound Security Systems – are in talks with distributors keen to market the alarm in shops across England and Wales. Several local authorities are also reported to be interested.

One shop owner in Wales who has installed the alarm praised its effectiveness. Stephen Gough, who runs a Spar supermarket in Barry, south Wales, said it drove young people who gathered outside his shop “to the point of distraction”.

A spokesperson for the human rights group Liberty said the device unfairly targeted young people who were not necessarily doing anything wrong, and that it may adversely affect their hearing.

Howard Stapleton, managing director of Compound Security Systems and inventor of the device, began marketing the alarm after getting the go-ahead from his local environmental health department, even though they hadn’t tested it, and after an official from the Department for Environment, Fisheries and Rural Affairs told him there was “nothing to stop him”.

But although Stapleton, an alarm engineer for 20 years, insisted the unit cannot omit more than about 100 decibels (the legal limit for an alarm is 120 decibels), he did admit tests were largely confined to those on carried out on his four children, and that his guidelines for the point at which lasting damage is done to the hearing system was taken from research found on the internet.

Richard Law, a leading consultant in children’s hearing, said children who are hyper sensitive to noise could be harmed by the alarm.

Law said that although the frequencies were low enough not to pose an immediate danger to young people’s hearing, it would have been “sensible” to carry out an in-depth study of the alarm’s effects before marketing it.

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