March 2, 2008 — The Mosquito has landed – and the city’s teens and 20-somethings are about to get bitten.
A pesky new security device aims to clear out young troublemakers from their hangouts in apartment-building lobbies and foyers by emitting an irritating high-frequency screech that can only be heard by young ears.
The message: Buzz off.
The British-made Mosquito, used in 3,500 locations in the UK, costs $1,400, weighs five pounds and looks like an innocuous wall-mounted speaker. But its obnoxious 85-decibel drone ranges as far as 60 feet and registers as a constant screech to most people between the ages of 13 and 25.
It’s almost silent to those older, according to Mike Gibson, whose company, Moving Sound Technologies, sells the device in the United States.
“It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard to people who can hear it,” Gibson said.
High-pitch frequencies often become inaudible as people age because hair cells at the base of the inner ear, or cochlea, that are responsible for picking them up become damaged over time.
Local youths felt the sting last week, after the landlord of a vandalism- and drug-plagued apartment building in Jamaica, Queens, became the first New York City address to install the siren.
Sean Mann, property manager of the 78-unit building at 114-05 170th St., said he was desperate to curtail chronic loitering, vandalism and even drug use in the building’s lobby.
“I look at this as an active deterrent . . . I’m skeptical – because I can’t hear it,” he said.
But, he added, “over the past few days, we haven’t seen any kids hanging out there. They’re moving to different floors to avoid the sound.
“But now that we know it works, we’ll keep installing more.”
The Post put the gadget to the test in Washington Square Park and Midtown.
“It’s obnoxious, high-pitched and painful,” said 19-year-old Kristin Hankins with a wince.
“It’s just awful,” cried Jackie Lewis, 19, covering her ears. “I was wondering what that was. It’s so annoying!”
But Jesus Parra, 46, was mystified. “Am I going deaf? I don’t hear nothing,” he said.
Dr. Pamela Roehm, assistant professor of otolaryngology at NYU, warns that more studies should be done before people install these devices.
“Eighty-five decibels is a little extreme,” she said. “There is the possibility that long periods of exposure to this sound could cause damage.”
By SUSANNAH CAHALAN