Moving Pedestrians with that “Hissing” Noise


If you have been walking on Vancouver’s Seymour Street between Robson and Smithe you have probably heard it~kind of a high-pitched hissing noise, with a bit of a pulse to it. And no, it is not a heat pump or something related to a building’s air conditioning. That sound is actually a deterrent to keep loiterers and folks that would otherwise chat, sit near, or take up space near the parkade running the noise.

Called the Mosquito, this technology was invented  in Great Britain and has a patented small speaker that produces a high frequency sound that can be heard by people who are 13 to 25 years old. That sound is broadcast at 17 Kilohertz (KHz). For older people, and in this case the Seymour Street sound, the setting is at 8 KHz and can be heard by people of all ages. There’s even a way to put place the Mosquito in a “royalty free” music channel, to ward away teenagers but attract older people. “Classical or Chill-out music that would keep the teenagers away to some extent…Launched in the year 2008, it is popular among clients who prefer to use music as one of the strategies to deal with anti social behavior!”

So back to Seymour Street~as reported by CBC News, a guy walking his dog noticed his pup was upset walking along this block. He found that the noise emanated from a box mounted in a stairwell in a nearby parkade, and was designed to deter people from gathering there. Calling these “audio pigeon spikes” a complaint was made to the City of Vancouver. And apparently others have noticed this noise as well, making walking down the street unpleasant for passersby.

Rob De Luca, public safety director for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said the devices can be disruptive when used near public spaces, like a busy sidewalk.

“Broadly, these things can raise some concerns,” said De Luca. “The experience can be painful for certain people. It can very much be a blunt instrument. It doesn’t discriminate on people who are offending or not offending — it hits all ears alike.”

It appears that the Mosquito devices are legal in Canada and the complaint has been forwarded to the Vancouver Police Department.  It is worth checking out the comments section of the CBC article where commenters have listed other locations where these Mosquito devices are installed. And if you want to hear how annoying the Mosquito noise is, you can hear this sound by following this link.