AUSTRALIA: Youth alarm sparks discrimination concerns

Summary: Children's rights defenders say that the Mosquito device violates children's rights - including children's right to association and their freedom of movement - in a discriminatory way, because it targets what adults consider to be problematic behaviour in children but acceptable once above the age of majority, such as 'hanging about'.

[24 May 2012] - Western Australia's Commissioner for Children and Young People has warned the introduction of a device used to deter young people from public areas could breach discrimination laws.

The small, electronic device known as the Mosquito Alarm, emits a high-frequency noise only audible to children and teenagers. There have been attempts to ban the device in Europe.

Businesses in Kununurra and Geraldton have started using it to try and reduce theft and vandalism.

The Commissioner, Michelle Scott, says she has written to the Police Commissioner demanding police withdraw their support for the technology.

"They won't be effective in reducing juvenile offending and is potentially unlawful and could give rise to a complaint under the Equal Opportunity Act," she said.

A shopkeeper in the Kimberley town of Kununurra has this week started using the device at his store.

Kununurra Chamber of Commerce President Brad Williams says he has high hopes for the trial.

"One of the problems we've got is young people in the town centre in the middle of the night, so hopefully it'll have an impact reducing the property damage and hopefully even send the kids home to sleep," he said.

"The devices are only intended to be activated during the evening when the kids shouldn't be in the shopping centre precinct anyway."

Geraldton shop owners and the local council are also using the device to deter youths from engaging in anti-social behaviour.

The CEO of the Geraldton Chamber of Commerce Bill Headley says the alarm is used at the foreshore playground.

"The city has them installed down there and I understand that they're also used, or can be used at shopping centres to deter unsocial gatherings again," he said.

"I was watching some activity down there one night that wasn't particularly attractive and once it turned on, they immediately dispersed."


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