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Associated Press, Published June 07 2011

Hastings considering sound machine to deter teens

HASTINGS, Minn. – The southeastern Minnesota town of Hastings may try to solve a vandalism problem in an out-of-the way park by installing a noise machine to repel teenagers.

The city is considering installing the SonicScreen technology in Cari Park, a frequent target for vandals who are assumed to be teenagers.

SonicScreen emits a high-pitched screech at a frequency young people can hear but older folks with less-sensitive hearing can’t.

“For young people, it sounds like 15 or 20 people dragging their nails down a chalkboard,” said Jeff Webber, owner of Webber Recreational Design, which would install the device.

Webber told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that if Hastings installs the SonicScreen – made by Miracle

Tech Security of New Jersey – it would be the first such system installed in Minnesota.

The technology is similar to devices designed to repel rodents by emitting noises at frequencies humans can’t hear.

Shilpi Banerjee, president of the Minnesota Academy of Audiologists, said SonicScreen works because most adults start to lose their high-frequency hearing in their 20s.

Hastings Park and Recreation Director Barry Bernstein said Cari Park has been a frequent target for vandals. The park is surrounded by homes, and police officers can’t see it from the street. It has no lights.

Vandals have scrawled graffiti on equipment, defecated in the play tunnels and set fire to one of the structures. Bernstein said the city is installing new playground equipment and wants to protect it.

Bernstein also is considering lights, video surveillance and even a machine that would shout at trespassers who tripped a motion detector.

“It could say something like, ‘Hey, you aren’t supposed to be here!’ ” he said.

But the SonicScreen is the most high-tech solution on the table, even if there’s a low-tech way to beat it. When asked if vandals could just wear earplugs, Webber paused and said, “I imagine that would work.”

But that would require planning – something most vandals don’t do, he said. “Vandalism is typically a spur-of-the-moment decision,” Webber said. “There is not a lot of forethought.”

The city parks and recreation commission is expected to vote on the matter June 14 and forward its recommendation to the full City Council.


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