SAM BURSON Western Mail
The Welsh inventor of a sonic ‘anti-hoodie’ device says he has been overwhelmed by orders after it was praised by a police force. Staffordshire Police Force has backed Howard Stapleton’s invention, which gives shopkeepers a way to drive youngsters away from their shop fronts. The device, dubbed, ‘The Mosquito,’ emits infuriating high- frequency sounds. While unbearable to those under about 20 years old, they cannot be heard by most older people.
The noise is no louder than traffic noise, and rigorous tests have been carried out to ensure it cannot cause permanent damage. Mr Stapleton, pictured with his invention, from Merthyr Tydfil, perfected the device by testing it on his four children. He said, ‘The only thing that’s been standing in the way of massive sales so far is that people don’t believe it can work. A lot of them think it sounds a bit far-fetched. ‘But the fact it’s been endorsed by a police force has made people realise it really does work.’ Insp Amanda Richards, fromStaffordshire Police, has said the device has shown, ‘fabulous results’. It has also been adopted by Rochdale Council, which has indicated sales could increase. The acceptance of the invention as a reliable tool to combat anti- social behaviour comes after Mr Stapleton’s company Compound Security Systems celebrated selling its 200th device. And a deal has now been secured with an overseas distributor to sell an initial batch of 50 of the pounds 495 gadgets to Holland and Belgium. Interest has also been shown from the US and Japan. PC Glyn Hopkins, a divisional crime prevention officer for Gwent Police, said there seemed to be evidence it was working, although he stopped short of giving it a complete seal of approval. The force has been monitoring the area outside Newport’s Caerleon Road Spar store, a hotspot for teenagers, since the autumn. Pc Hopkins said, ‘We can’t endorse products, but we are optimistic about it, and we’re continuing to monitor it until we can be more sure. ‘Over the three months before it was put in we had an average of 14 complaints of anti-social behaviour per month, but we’ve had an average of five over the last two. ‘It’s something that does appear to be working, and when we have a crime prevention seminar it’s something we mention to people that is available.’ He added, ‘The device itself is surrounded by a cage, and that has been stuffed with paper before by children trying to muffle the noise. That in itself would suggest it works.’
Pc Hopkins added, ‘A lot of people work late at night, and to walk out of a shop into a crowd of 15-year-olds wearing hoods can be very intimidating.
‘One of the best uses can be to activate it a few minutes before leaving.’ Mr Stapleton said he was not sure whether his device could make him a millionaire, but did reveal grand plans for his next birthday. He said, ‘It’s cost more than I thought to set up a company, but I’m hoping to be in the black and to start making a profit in the next couple of months. ‘I’m not sure about being a millionaire, but I’m now looking in earnest towards by 40th birthday in December. ‘I’m thinking a nice present to myself would be a new Audi RS4.’: How the Mosquito works:Science Over the years cells in our inner ears die and do not regenerate. The first ones to go are the cells detecting higher pitched sounds, which begin to perish in our 20s. This is why many children can hear bats while most adults cannot. Mr Stapleton first got the idea when visiting his father’s company as a child. He was forced to leave a room because of noise from ultrasonic welding which no adults could hear. How it operates: A 16 kilohertz, 18-decibel blast of sound is emitted, outside the range of hearing of most adults. It is controlled from inside the store and can be switched on at need to disperse young crowds or activated in timed bursts to stop overnight gatherings. Tests show children visiting a shop with parents are not troubled, as the effect is cumulative – annoying after a time but not immediately distressing or painful.
February 17, 2006
SAM BURSON Western Mail