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Screech Machine Could Drive Teens Away From Park

HASTINGS, Minn. (WCCO) -- The city of Hastings is looking to curb vandalism at a local park by installing a device that emits a high-frequency sound only heard by teens and some adults.

Parks and Recreation Director Barry Bernstein said their looking to redevelop Cari Park near Red Wing Boulevard and are considering adding the security device known as SonicScreen, made by Miracletech Security. It would be installed by Webber Recreational Design, which is a company in Hastings.

"It's a sound barrier that would be activated when the park is closed to reduce loitering on the play equipment," Bernstein said.

Bernstein said the security device is specifically designed for kids ages 12 to 18. It omits a high-pitch sound at 17.5 Kilohertz that can irritate teens. Some have described the noise as a mosquito buzzing in your ear or fingernails scratching a chalkboard.

The tone has a 50-foot radius so neighbors living nearby shouldn't be bothered.

"It doesn't effect animals," said Jay Webber of Webber Recreational Design. "It doesn't effect them from the standpoint of not being able to hear it."

The reason adults can't hear it is because at the age of 20 you begin to lose your high-frequency hearing.

"Those decibel levels basically go away from our ability to hear them," said Webber. "We actually have an option of having a child or an adult version for the actual sound. I can hear the adult setting and that's more for vagrancy on boardwalks where people are trying to sleep in a park."

The technology was designed in the United Kingdom to keep kids from loitering in certain areas. Teens have adopted the mosquito sound as a ringtone and some use it during class so teachers can't hear it.

Bernstein is looking to place the deterrent in the new design of Cari Park. He said vandals have struck the park after dark several times.

"Part of the structure has been set a blaze," said Bernstein. "We found human excrement in our tube slides. Urine on our tornado slide. It's been tagged."

Bernstein said they're also considering installing security cameras, lights and other voice monitoring system.

"A voice will come on and say 'Please remove yourself from this area,'" Bernstein said.

Hastings has $60,000 to replace the aging park. The SonicScreen system will cost around $7,000 and will be included in the cost.

Bernstein said the security system will save the city money in the end. He said they have five maintenance workers that oversee 400 acres of parks and 33 miles of trails. Whenever someone vandalizes a park, it costs the city not only money but time.

"It's more significant not in only in dollars but in time," Bernstein said.

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