British campaigners call for ban on 'Mosquito' devices used to drive kids away from shops

By ROBERT BARR

Associated Press Writer

LONDON (AP) -- England's commissioner for children and a civil liberties group joined in a campaign Tuesday to ban high-frequency devices intended to drive away kids who congregate outside shops and in other areas.

The so-called "Mosquito" device emits high-frequency noise that is audible -- and annoying -- to young ears, but generally not heard by people over 20.

"This device is a quick fix that does not tackle the root cause of the problem and it is indiscriminate," English Children's Commissioner Al Aynsley-Green said.

The campaigners claim that about 3,500 of the electronic kid repellents, made by a Welsh company, are in use.

Aynsley-Green said in an interview with British Broadcasting Corp. radio that the devices do not deal with the real problem, which is that children have no place to gather other than on the streets.

"I think it is a powerful symptom of what I call the malaise at the heart of our society," he said.

"I'm very concerned about what I see to be an emerging gap between the young and the old, the fears, the intolerance, even the hatred, of the older generation toward the young."

Youth crime is a major concern in Britain; according to the crime prevention charity Nacro, young people are responsible for two-fifths of incidents of theft, burglary, robbery and violence.

Fear of violent youth was underlined this week by the conviction of a 19-year-old man, and youths aged 17 and 16 for killing a 47-year-old man who had confronted them about their drunken behavior.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of the civil rights group Liberty, supported the campaign against the devices.

"Imagine the outcry if a device was introduced that caused blanket discomfort to people of one race or gender, rather than to our kids," Chakrabarti said. "The Mosquito has no place in a country that values its children and seeks to instill them with dignity and respect."

The Mosquito's inventor, Howard Stapleton, has called for agreement about guidelines for using the devices.

"We tell shopkeepers to use it when they have a problem and I would be more than happy to introduce a contract which stipulates to shopkeepers how it can be used," Stapleton was quoted by the Western Mail newspaper as saying.

"People talk about infringing human rights but what about the human rights of the shopkeeper who is seeing his business collapse because groups of unruly teenagers are driving away his customers?"

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