Businesses Use Hostile Sounds As Deterrents

If you were to walk at night along the waterfront in West Palm Beach, Fla., you might hear something strange: A playlist of annoyingly catchy children’s songs — including “Baby Shark” and “Raining Tacos” — blared all night to deter homeless people from sleeping near an event center. The Waterfront Lake Pavilion, a luxury venue that can be rented for $250-$500 an hour, doesn’t want homeless people sleeping on its patio, so the city’s park department devised the sonic deterrent. Hostile architecture — such as slanted and segmented benches, uneven pavements, or metal spikes — has traditionally been used to deter the homeless, but now more companies are resulting to annoying music to do the trick. A group of 7-Eleven stores in Canada is credited with being the first to use classical music to disperse crowds of teenagers from their parking lots. The London Underground piped classical music into dozens of stations after a trial revealed that physical and verbal abuse decreased by 33% when the music was played. Rite-Aid stores in California blast Barry Manilow songs outside their stores to deter loiterers, and the British Navy has weaponized music by using Britney Spears hits to repel pirate ships along the east coast of Africa. A device called the Mosquito takes sound deterrents one step further. It emits a high-pitched noise similar to the buzz of a mosquito, but because of its very high frequency — 17.4 kHz — it's inaudible to most people over 25. That’s because people lose sensitivity to high frequencies as they get older. The Mosquito is designed to be used when there's a problem, not 24 hours a day, nor to create a no-go area for kids. Whatever the annoyance, companies are finding that it’s both economical and effective to use sound rather than security people.