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Ealing Council’s community safety team has used an ultra-sonic sound device to drive away anti-social teenagers who have caused years of misery for a retired teacher and his neighbours in Acton.

Known as the “mosquito”, the device emits a high tone that cannot be heard by most people aged over 25 years because adults lose the ability to hear at that frequency range. The device is harmless, even with long-term use. It costs around £450 and has an effective range of between 15 and 20 metres.

For eight years, Richard Sparkes and his neighbours suffered unbearable noise from teenagers gathering, stomping their skateboards on the pavements and grinding them along the low fence railing around his block of flats in Leythe Road.  After just two weeks of use, the mosquito has driven away the teenagers who refused to listen to Mr Sparkes, his neighbours or even police.

The device - the first of its kind in the borough - has been so successful that the community safety team plans to buy more to protect other residents who may be suffering similar problems. Councillor Sue Emment, cabinet member for safer communities, said: “Our swift, decisive action has managed to solve an eight year problem in just two weeks. The mosquito is the council’s latest tool to combat anti-social behaviour or nuisance issues, supporting the council’s priority to improve community safety. We will take every measure possible to protect residents from anyone who threatens their peace and quality of life.”

In addition to skateboarding, teenagers would also gather under the porch of the Leythe Road property and in the residents’ private car park. Speaking on behalf of other concerned residents, Mr Sparkes said: “The noise from the stomping skateboards was like gunfire. If you wanted to watch a programme on tv or put on a record or have a rest, it was awful. The problem got worse during the last four years. It was escalating.” Mr Sparkes said polite requests from him and from his neighbours for the young people to move away or keep the noise down were met with indifference or rude remarks. “We are a good community and we don’t deserve that,” he said.

Ealing Council’s community safety liaison officer Chris Reynolds lobbied Acton Housing Association to buy and install the device on the outside wall of the property. The mosquito has the appearance of a small black box and can be sounded intermittently on a timer, or operated manually.

Mr Sparkes described Mr Reynolds as a “tower of strength”, who had worked on his behalf to identify the best solution in partnership with Acton Housing Association and police.

“I think it is excellent,” Mr Sparkes said. “It has stopped them from skateboarding under our windows and in our private car park. We are not against young people meeting or playing but there are other safe areas for them to play. Play is an important part of social education, but so is a respect for other people, their property and their peace of mind.”

October 23, 2006