Greater Greater Washington

Teens and young adults aren't mosquitoes

If you're under 25, you're not quite welcome in Chinatown. A new "Mosquito" device at the street level of the Metro entrance at 7th & H Streets in Chinatown is emitting shrill noise at 18 KHz, a high frequency that only young people can hear.


Photo by aliciagriffin on Flickr.

Similar devices have been installed in Britain with the same purpose of discouraging young people from congregating outside shops. According to Councilmember Jack Evans, the founder of the Gallery Place development had the device installed on his company's Gallery Place building.

These devices are wrong and most likely illegal as well.

This device was placed at a popular Metro entrance and just a few feet from a popular bus stop. Toddlers, teenagers, and young adults waiting for the bus or emerging from the Metro will now have to endure a shrill screech purposely aimed at annoying them and driving them away. WMATA's Lisa Farbstein voiced concerns about this to the Post.

Though I too am concerned about the incivility and criminal behavior that occurs in Chinatown, police supervision is the proper response. Though I'm 25 now, as a teenager I strongly resented our society's habit of treating young people as criminals and nuisances.

Before the age of suburban development and private shopping mall, cities always included grand public spaces for relaxation and socializing. Sometimes these spaces were formal, grassy parks and sometimes these places were paved plazas like the piazzas in Italy.

Unlike private shopping malls, which serve as the de facto gathering places in most suburbs, public streets, squares, and parks in cities are by their virtue open to the public. With the bright lights, movie theaters, restaurants, and ample seating space on the steps of the museum, Chinatown is a unique attraction for nightlife of all ages. The fact that it sits atop three Metro lines makes it accessible and a convenient meeting place for people coming from all over the city.

Criminal behavior and ill-behaved teenagers do reduce the enjoyment of the space for everyone else, including the vast majority of well-behaved teenagers. This must be addressed through police patrols; Chinatown's popularity and importance warrants a continuous MPD presence the way the NYPD constantly patrols Times Square.

Even still, public spaces by definition are open to the public and must remain that way. Part of the charm of Chinatown is that it is unpredictable and boisterous. Its liveliness, let's remember, is largely owed to the liveliness of excited, but law-abiding, youth.

Just as teens skateboarded in Silver Spring's plaza because they had no better place, if young people are hanging out in Gallery Place, the better approach would be to give them a better place to go that meets their needs instead of just trying to annoy them away somewhere else.

More importantly, this device probably violates the law.

The DC Human Rights Act makes it illegal "to deny, directly or indirectly, any person the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodations." (Our emphasis)

Unequal treatment is illegal if it is "wholly or partially for a discriminatory reason based on the actual or perceived: race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, familial status, family responsibilities, genetic information, disability, matriculation, political affiliation, source of income, or place of residence or business of any individual." (Our emphasis)

Whoever installed this device clearly did so with the intention of driving away young people who have an equal right to be at the Metro entrance. The device's manufacturer doesn't mask the age-discrimination motivation of the Mosquito and even markets it as "a simple, safe and benign way to disperse crowds of anti-social youth." There's no explanation as to how the device knows who is "anti-social" and who isn't. Few people would describe a toddler or infant as "anti-social", but the device doesn't care for such nuance.

The ethical problem with the device is clear: it purposely aims to annoy and deny equal use of public accommodations to law-abiding people solely on account of their age. All insidious forms of discrimination derive from desire to withhold one's goodwill from a person for characteristics that don't merit distinction.

Several papers are reporting the installation, but few are addressing the civil rights aspect of it. Young people are equally entitled to use these public places lawfully and social interaction in the public sphere is a key part of urban life, even if it occasionally gets rowdy. Police patrols are a more effective means of maintaining order in Chinatown as they can address activities that are actually illegal.

The developer probably doesn't care much for the ethics of the matter, but the DC Human Rights Act makes its use illegal. An investigation by the city's Office of Human Rights is a call the developer will hear loudly.

Eric Fidler has lived in DC and suburban Maryland his entire life. He likes long walks along the Potomac and considers the L'Enfant Plan an elegant work of art. He also blogs at Left for LeDroit, LeDroit Park's (only) blog of record. 

Comments

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I agree absolutely, but expect to see a raft of commenters coming along to endorse the idea of blanket punishment for the young. The device doesn't even do a good job of targeting young people, since I'm in my 40s and still annoyed by the beeping.

by Keith Ivey on Sep 2, 2010 11:30 am • linkreport

I can't personally hear at that frequency, but I wonder at what decibel level the device is emitting the sound at, and if it exceeds the legal decibel limit or not.

by Paul C on Sep 2, 2010 11:32 am • linkreport

Along with the legal and anti-ageist arguments you present, I thoroughly agree with your statement that the Mosquito won't do anything but push them away and AT BEST make it some other area's problem. It's not like it's going to make kids stay at home and do their homework.

Great post.

by Amin on Sep 2, 2010 11:33 am • linkreport

What the..?

by Lou on Sep 2, 2010 11:34 am • linkreport

Um, is youth a protected class? I am pretty sure what everyone is objecting to is the BLACK teenagers, and the police hassling them would seem to me the civil rights violation.

Also, I am fairly sure teenagers and the various unemployed 20 year old do not contribute anything to the "liveliness" of the place. That has to do with the paying customers, all of whom are staying away from the area. My GF refuses to go out in Chinatown anymore, and she doesn't bring her other gf there as well.

by charlie on Sep 2, 2010 11:34 am • linkreport

Under 18 teenagers are specifically exempt from the DC Human Rights Act.

The following words and terms when used in this chapter have the following meanings:

§ 2-1401.02. Definitions.

The following words and terms when used in this chapter have the following meanings:

...

(2.) “Age” means 18 years of age or older.

by jcm on Sep 2, 2010 11:34 am • linkreport

I'm pretty sure I'm not hearing the noise that's at the Mosquito frequency, so not experiencing all the annoyance teens get to hear. But the thing at Gallery Place apparently makes plenty of noise outside that frequency as well.

by Keith Ivey on Sep 2, 2010 11:36 am • linkreport

Also agree, this thing should be removed. It's patently discriminatory.

However, I'm pretty sympathetic to the merchants involved here. Gallery Place has a real problem. Police enforcement can only do so much. A great deal of the offensive behavior is not illegal, just obnoxious and aggressive.

Teens don't need a "better place" to hang out. They should be able to hang out here, take in a movie, and do all the other stuff that draws people to Gallery Place. However, they need to behave themselves by not starting fights; heckling women, white people, and perceived gays; blocking sidewalks; etc. This is all behavior I've seen there, not some misplaced "oh my gosh, black kids are hanging out, what shall I do".

Any suggestions on modifying behavior? The mosquito is not the answer. What is?

by TimK on Sep 2, 2010 11:38 am • linkreport

These Mosquito devices really annoy me. I am not a teenager but I can still hear them. I agree that these devices are wrong and not a solution for the problem at hand.

by Jed on Sep 2, 2010 11:38 am • linkreport

"Any suggestions on modifying behavior? The mosquito is not the answer. What is?"

Cops on the beat. That's how other cities like NYC have dealt with these problems.

by Phil on Sep 2, 2010 11:42 am • linkreport

I am not sure I agree on your interpretation of the law that you believe this violates. Unless the noise itself violates applicable noise laws, that would be a pretty tough one. I mean, bars and nightclubs frequently use dress-code laws to exactly the same purpose: to give them an excuse to deny access to people who dress in ways typical of certain cultures. Transparent and offensive, yes, but I can't agree that it could be considered illegal. The definition of what is protected is pretty specific and broadening it to include things that "people of a certain race or group typically dress as" (for example) could have wide reaching ramifications.

Anyway, that said, I think they should just use the time-honored suburban 7-11 practice of playing classical music through the loudspeaker, instead. It's proven effective elsewhere for decades and doesn't annoy anyone except people who think classical music is uncool.

by Jamie on Sep 2, 2010 11:45 am • linkreport

This is usually the kind of thing I am against, strangely I am not. I use that metro stop on my home several times a week and it is crowded and noisy. However later in the evening (say 8 or 9 pm) I will not go there. The groups of teens are large, they challenge you on the sidewalk often dropping their shoulder into you and mouthing off. There is fighting, no regard for traffic laws, just chaos. A better response would enforcement of curfew and loitering laws (do we have those?), but until then..anything that works. Too important a part of town to be this out of control.

Those who are against this may have a soft heart but must not frequent the area. Also there are plenty of common spaces (perhaps not as grand as a piazza) but I think the mall and the hundred or so other parks in this city are pretty good. No need to congregate on the sidewalk / street.

by berk on Sep 2, 2010 11:48 am • linkreport

@charlie: I'm about 95% sure you're right that the target is black teenagers, not all teenagers. But, unfortunately for the Gallery Place owner, there's no device that emits a sound only black teenagers can hear.

@jcm: People under 18 aren't the only ones who hear it. People who have the hearing of an average 25-year-old or under can hear it.

Furthermore, there's additional legislation, both local and national, that gives human rights to people under 18. Not the same rights, I'm sure, but rights nonetheless.

by Tim on Sep 2, 2010 11:49 am • linkreport

I'm a bit disappointed and dismayed about the positive reaction that I've seen from some of my friends and coworkers over this news.

Deliberately annoying and alienating teenagers is not going to solve any of the District's perceived social problems. If anything, this is pouring fuel into the fire.

And, seriously... What sort of city-dweller is actively fearful of large crowds? The chaos that occurs after an event at the Verizon Center is far, far worse than occasional loiterers by the Metro entrance.

(On the other hand, the other half of Charlie's comment rang true... When people complain about loiterers, it's usually about black people)

by andrew on Sep 2, 2010 11:49 am • linkreport

Whether you think there need to be more public gathering places or not, the metro entrance is not it: it is not intended to be a public loitering area for the purpose of harassing metro riders and causing trouble. The problem with this post is not the opposition to the mosquito devices: the problem is that you don't even understand the problem they are trying to address.

by JustMe on Sep 2, 2010 11:52 am • linkreport

Just as medical diagnoses are best left to professionals, so to should the legal analysis be left to the professionals. Or at least those who play professionals on TV.

If more cops is the answer, then what happens when allegations of police racial profiling and harassment are raised? Or is the answer more money for "youth programming" so that kids will be doing whatever it is that occurs durng programming, rather than hanging out at Gallery Place and acting like idiot teens?

If the Mosquito is a violation of the DC Human Rights Law, then surely when a bar offers "ladies night" drink specials, that too must be a violation of the law because of it's discriminatory effect.

Likewise, if I'm trying to get into a fancy trendy club wearing shorts and sandals and the bouncer says I'm not getting inside because of the dress code, is that also a Human Rights Law violation?

If you're going to make a legal pronouncement, then you need actual legal citations and arguments, rather than simply self-righteousness.

by Fritz on Sep 2, 2010 11:55 am • linkreport

That has to do with the paying customers, all of whom are staying away from the area.

All of them? Really?

Is this the new version of "Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded"?

by neff on Sep 2, 2010 12:00 pm • linkreport

I can hear those things. And I'm 36. I'm sure I'm not the only 'adult' who can.

by Carrie on Sep 2, 2010 12:00 pm • linkreport

Wow, I'm pretty conservative, and pretty old. I don't care for being around loud groups of young people. But how anybody can defend this absolutely baffles me.

What if DC deployed a bunch of these next time the anarchists came for the World Bank protests? I bet most of those people fit the "spectrum" that this device targets. Is that defensible?

by Lou on Sep 2, 2010 12:01 pm • linkreport

NPR did a story on this a few years ago. Listen to the MP3 to see if you can hear it, too

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5434687

by Carrie on Sep 2, 2010 12:05 pm • linkreport

I am tired of hearing that this particular installation is designed to discriminate against teens. It does not!

This device is set so that people off all ages can hear it:
http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local-beat/Anti-Loitering-Device-Installed-at-Gallery-Place-101903703.html

It is anti-loitering device. It is absolutely legal to be annoying within the confines of the law. They are not targeting teens.

As long as it does not violate the sound ordinance (it doesn't appear to), then the company has a right to be just as annoying to the people gathered as the people have a right to gather.

by trian on Sep 2, 2010 12:06 pm • linkreport

"And, seriously... What sort of city-dweller is actively fearful of large crowds? The chaos that occurs after an event at the Verizon Center is far, far worse than occasional loiterers by the Metro entrance."

It's not large crowds that bother me. It's small groups of kids who deliberately threaten people and have no problem getting into fights publicly.

I'm fed up with abusive behavior. That doesn't make me a racist. Or even a suburbanite.

by TimK on Sep 2, 2010 12:08 pm • linkreport

However, there is a teen loitering problem at this place.

Basically, DC needs to extend their "Drug Free Zone" law to incorporate non-drug related violence (including sexual harassment that includes cat-calling).

Even liberal San Francisco got so fed up with violence, that they instituted a very specific loitering law:
http://articles.sfgate.com/2009-05-09/bay-area/17201323_1_chicago-anti-loitering-nightclub-ordinance

Such laws have to be conducted with the utmost recognition that they are treading into First Ammendment territory, and therfore must be crafted carefully. But when an entire metro area becomes wary of visiting an area because of real violence (verbal harassment, 70 person brawls), then the municipality must take action to protect its citizens.

Plain and simple, if people don't feel safe going to Gallery Place on weekends evenings, the city has a responsibility to fix the problem. They haven't despite repeated requests.

The business decided to take action. They are annoying. They may annoy real potential customers and hurt their business. But the fact is, they see that potential as being less problematic than the current one, so they are trying this.

If it doesn't work, they will stop using the device.

by trian on Sep 2, 2010 12:09 pm • linkreport

Fritz, people who aren't sufficiently dressed up are not a protected class, and I don't really understand the argument for how ladies' nights are not discriminatory. Would it be acceptable for a bar to have a night where white people got discounts but others had to pay full price?

Could one of the supporters of this device explain exactly why it's okay that a 25-year-old who's waiting at the escalator to meet friends to go to a movie and bothering no one should be subjected to this?

by Keith Ivey on Sep 2, 2010 12:10 pm • linkreport

I am 30 years old and I heard the mosquito noise when I was walking my dog the other night. My dog heard it, too. I've been living in this neighborhood for 5 years now, and I am getting ****ing SICK of the Gallery Place building installing one noise-making device after another. First Zengo violates the noise ordinances, then the building installs that video-screen pointed right at traffic, and now this? Who cares what the DC government does, a good old fashioned class-action nuisance law suit could put these callous bastards out of business.

by tom veil on Sep 2, 2010 12:12 pm • linkreport

While we're at it, let's make GP couples-only, like some of those resorts in the Caribbean. I'm tired of the meat-market crowd making it hard to get drinks at Oyamel and tables at Rasika. Plus, those tourists in shorts, sneakers and long socks with their children heading to Carmines.

When I'm out in public, I only like to see people like me. If the result is that _all_ people, well behaved or otherwise, not like me can't go about their business and enjoy themselves, so be it.

by HM on Sep 2, 2010 12:12 pm • linkreport

A dress code is enforced at a PRIVATE establishment. We're talking about a PUBLIC space.

If you don't count people under 18 as real people (with real rights), you're still annoying the tons of people in their early 20's who live in Chinatown. And, I bet those early 20'ers spend more money in Chinatown than anyone else. If you're worried about scaring anyone away you should be worried about the early 20's population, and their free-spending happy hour ways.

by Jersoph on Sep 2, 2010 12:14 pm • linkreport

@Keith; um, it is called rational basis. I can easily see why would allow one guy waiting for his friend to be annoyed if it accomplishes something good.

I fully agree that it doesn't work, which is the real issue. But I don't have any sympathy for the "rights" argument.

by charlie on Sep 2, 2010 12:16 pm • linkreport

Granted, a lot of the time this device will be completely drowned out by the Black Israelites' ranting.

by Keith Ivey on Sep 2, 2010 12:16 pm • linkreport

I'm going the other way here. I've been spat at on the escalators while going down into the Chinatown station several times, so much so that I refused to go to Chinatown any longer.

Police don't care, and can't do anything when there are 30-40 people or more there - you can't prove who spat at me (or my girlfriend, filthy bastards) unless you're looking up and that's a recipe to get spit in the eye and who knows what kinds of shit is in their saliva.

Bring the "Mosquito" on. More of them. Until the little bastards leave us to commute in peace.

by varun on Sep 2, 2010 12:17 pm • linkreport

But Charlie, it's not just one guy. And since the device isn't actually limited to annoying people under 25, it's hitting a LOT more innocent people than guilty ones. We have more than enough annoying noises in our world already without allowing people to deploy devices designed to do nothing BUT make annoying noises in public spaces.

by Keith Ivey on Sep 2, 2010 12:21 pm • linkreport

Having dealt this morning with teens not moving out of the way of the boarding doors on Metro this morning, while they drank orange juice, I say we install these things in all Metro cars.

by Redline SOS on Sep 2, 2010 12:24 pm • linkreport

@Keith; I am addressing the legal issues. As as said before, I am not "youth" is a protected class here. And under a rational basis standard, the device meets the test.

@ Jersoph; early 20's? I wish...try early 30s. Look at some of those HH prices?

by charlie on Sep 2, 2010 12:27 pm • linkreport

Again, it is disappointing that some self-described "urbanists" want to select which groups and people they will allow to exist and spend leisure time in their urban space. Prejudice (whether against age or race) is wrong, plain and simple. I don't like being harassed by groups of teenagers either, but two wrongs don't make a right.

by aaa on Sep 2, 2010 12:28 pm • linkreport

In addition to the concerns others have expressed here, I'd be interested in how the original zoning approvals addresssed public access to spaces in the Gallery Place development. Wasn't it a PUD or similar special approval process that can include special requirements? Also there must be easements between WMATA and the developer concerning access to the escalators which could come into play. It may be that this approach in not permissable in this specific location. All in all, considering the bad PR, they probably should just switch to Mozart.

by ZZinDC on Sep 2, 2010 12:29 pm • linkreport

@Keith Ivey audible frequency range isn't a protected class either.

And don't forget gay bars that prohibit all "persons" wearing high-heels.

by Steve s. on Sep 2, 2010 12:30 pm • linkreport

@Keith: My point is that Eric Fidler's conclusion that this must violate the law is totally unsupported by anything other than self-righteousness and speculation. David Alpert's links to ladies night lawsuits in other states is really irrelevant since those cases wouldn't really care about the DC Human Rights Law.

If the Mosquito thing is set to a frequency that everyone can hear - and I'm not a teen, yet I can hear it just fine - then the "discrimination" case falls flat rather fast. The question then becomes whether it's within the noise control laws, which MPD apparently thinks it is.

On the bigger issue of crowds of unruly teens, the answer may be more police presence. But that would come with the undoubtedly ensuing claims of racial profiling and, once again, age discrimination for the cops hassling the loitering teens.

The DC loitering statute is, I believe, rather weak and hard to enforce (thanks Phil Mendelson!).

And the DC disturbing the peace laws are also very weak and hard to enforce (thanks again, Phil Mendelson!).

So what's the solution if you're the property management company and owners of the development? Is your concern focusing on what the city's bleeding hearts will say? Or is your concern focused on what your stores' patrons and condo residents' quality of life is?

by Fritz on Sep 2, 2010 12:31 pm • linkreport

While my hearing may be lousy at everyday conversation, I seem to be able to hear this sound quite easily at 27. I was down there only briefly & was quite annoyed at it. If the goal is to drive people away, I can say that it's working with me: except when I'm there, I am there because I'm a customer. So if I'm not there, that's one less customer... and I'm sure I'm not alone.

by Bossi on Sep 2, 2010 12:34 pm • linkreport

WTF? Starting fights; heckling women, white people, and perceived gays; blocking sidewalks are part of my culture. Where do you get off expecting me to "act white"?

by Lamont Prince on Sep 2, 2010 12:36 pm • linkreport

"A dress code is enforced at a PRIVATE establishment. We're talking about a PUBLIC space."

I don't think that distinction is really important for the purposes of the legality of this.

You can sit on a public street corner and yell about Jesus through a megaphone all day, can't you?

by Jamie on Sep 2, 2010 12:37 pm • linkreport

To those that argue that unruly teens have bothered them at metro stops, the solution is more policing. Those unruly teens also bother well behaved teens. The solution is not removing all teenagers.

Those unruly teens will just go somewhere else and bother someone else. The point is that we need better policing, not just a way to push the problem off on someone else by removing an entire class of people away from our public areas.

And this is a public area. These metro stops were funded by the taxes of all teens parents. If my tax money paid for a subway stop I would want my child to be able to use it without being subjected to an ear assault. And I would want to be able to use it without being harassed by thugs.

What is the unemployment rate in the metro area? Hire some security guards.

by esther on Sep 2, 2010 12:37 pm • linkreport

@ David: There are places where people have challenged Ladies Nights:

But they lost today....

http://www.aolnews.com/nation/article/court-rules-ladies-nights-arent-sexist-dont-violate-constitution/19618312

In its unanimous ruling, the court's three-judge panel also said that Den Hollander "paints a picture of a bleak future, where 'none other than what's left of the Wall Street moguls' will be able to afford to attend nightclubs"

Asked Wednesday about what he thinks the odds are of the U.S. Supreme Court agreeing to hear his case, Den Hollander told the Daily News: "About the same as some pretty young lady paying my way on a date."

It tickles me that the cheapskate whol filed the case is called Den Hollander. Apparently, it's not only being Dutch that makes one cheap. Being called "Hollander" suffices. :-D

by Jasper on Sep 2, 2010 12:46 pm • linkreport

In Atlanta, they pipe classical music into stations in inner city neighborhoods, including my old one. I think that might be a better step.

by Rich on Sep 2, 2010 12:50 pm • linkreport

I think everyone's missing the point of this device; the point is not to annoy everyone who walks through there (although it seems to be doing just that), but to annoy the people, teenagers or not, who stay there constantly and loiter. Teens (or anyone for that matter) going to the theater or going shopping can endure the noise for the 30 or so seconds that it takes for them to get from the metro to wherever they're going. Teens (or anyone) who loiter in that area and have to be around the noise constantly will vacate the area. At least, this is what the developer is hoping.

I've heard the noise (I'm 25). Annoying, yes. Annoying enough for me to stop going to Gallery Place, no. That's because I don't go to Gallery Place to loiter by the metro and harass people. I go to Gallery Place to go to movies, restaurants, and the bar. You can't hear the noise in there, it's been shown that the device does not discriminate in that it annoys everyone equally, so what's the big deal again? I'd rather put up with an annoying sound for a few seconds than feel unsafe going to one of my favorite areas.

by JS on Sep 2, 2010 12:53 pm • linkreport

"It had been a wonderful evening and what I needed now, to give it the perfect ending, was a little of the Ludwig Van." :)

by Bossi on Sep 2, 2010 12:53 pm • linkreport

I don't have an opinion on the device in Chinatown, but note that other locales have found playing classical music effective (and more pleasant) to discourage loiterers.

I was intrigued to read that the device is used to prevent unlawful skateboarding in other locales. If so, I would really like the National Park Service to install them in Indiana Plaza and Freedom Plaza, where unlawful skateboarders have inflicted hundreds of thousands of dollars on the granite and marble surfaces. The skateboarding is also hazardous to pedestrian activity and extremely noisy. The Navy Memorial Plaza has also seen frequent stakteboarder activity, but is somewhat better patrolled by volunteers from the visitor center there. These areas are posted against skateboarding (unless the boarders remove the signs), but the Park Police can't camp out in the plazas full time to protect them. Bring on more Mosquitos!

by Penn Quarter Urbanist on Sep 2, 2010 12:56 pm • linkreport

First of all, most of you have absolutely no clue about the law. That's pretty obvious. Ladies' nights are 100% Constitutional in private clubs. This is not a private space, it is a public space, so the comparison is completely irrelevant. Not saying this obviously violates any civil rights or related laws, just saying that comparing it to what is allowed in the private sphere is not legitimate.

Second, they could easily shut down the people shouting through megaphones if they really wanted to. I am sure there are any number of laws they could use to do so. They can't stop people from handing out pamphlets, or even speaking publicly in loud voices, but I bet they could justify it with the volume the megaphone creates. Maybe the police think it isn't worth it, especially given a potential lawsuit (albeit one that would probably be decided in their favor).

Finally, this is questionably legal and almost certainly not a good idea even if it is. I would be shocked if there is actually nothing the police can do, but if that's the case, then the Council needs to act to give them authority to deal with the situation. Noise pollution is already so bad in much of the world that nearly everyone suffers from some degree of tinnitus. Putting more loud sounds in public spaces is not a good thing.

by Nate on Sep 2, 2010 12:58 pm • linkreport

@Nate, you should read some history about the megaphones (e.g.) before assuming they can be shut down.

This has come up many times in the past, in particular an incident in which a homeowner who lived on the corner where one of these guys set up every day. He tried again and again, including trying to have the law changed to lower the decibel limit. Police came an measured the noise, but as long as it doesn't exceed the limit (which is pretty high) there is no legal recourse.

by Jamie on Sep 2, 2010 1:00 pm • linkreport

@Nate; how is the ", this is questionably legal ".

Civil rights violation: highly unlikely

Noise violation: MPD already has said no

I'd agree that it may not be best solution, and perhaps not even a good idea. But it certainly seems legal.

by charlie on Sep 2, 2010 1:03 pm • linkreport

Not everyone who stands around at that location is "loitering." People waiting for the bus often use it to shelter themselves from the sun or rain, and I've stood there for 10-15 minutes on more than one occasion waiting for a friend to get off the Metro.

Besides, every time I've been there on Friday or Saturday evenings there have been cops, Guardian Angels or private security on the scene. If kids are causing problems at other times then cops need to be there at those times, as well.

The lack of police patrols within the station itself also astounds me. I was in NYC this weekend and I saw cops on the subway several times. At major transfer stations on weekend evenings the NYPD seems to patrol pretty much constantly, and in some cases they even have offices within the station. Meanwhile, I honestly can't remember the last time I saw a cop on Metro.

by Phil on Sep 2, 2010 1:06 pm • linkreport

How does the device differentiate between misbehaving youth and other young people who are just there to ride transit and mind their own business?

by Eileen on Sep 2, 2010 1:15 pm • linkreport

@Phil, well, clearly metro police is doing something to earn their $100K+ salaries.

And I will say I have seen police presence at green line stations now.

by charlie on Sep 2, 2010 1:15 pm • linkreport

Here's an interesting question: What kind of damage is this thing causing to people's hearing? If it's causing pain, that's generally a sign that damage is being done to one's ear.

by Brian on Sep 2, 2010 1:19 pm • linkreport

Here's an idea!
Just tase everybody age 25 and younger. The police would be happy to practice their skills and the courts and public opinion seem to be totally on board with this form of semi-lethal "behavior modification".
Problem solved.

by Tosh on Sep 2, 2010 1:21 pm • linkreport

To me, the bigger nuisance is the fact that all of these kids are packed onto the sidewalk. The city should seriously investigate pedestrianizing that strip so these crowds can disperse a little bit and give peds more walking room. Cars in that area are, by far, the biggest danger and deterrent to a night out for me.

by JTS on Sep 2, 2010 1:26 pm • linkreport

@Nate - You should realize the irony of disparaging others for not knowing anything about the law and then revealing that you don't know much about the recent history with DC's noise control laws or disorderly conduct laws.

by Fritz on Sep 2, 2010 1:29 pm • linkreport

@JTS it was a pedestrian mall in the '90s. And it was SCARY there.

by carrie on Sep 2, 2010 1:30 pm • linkreport

Have they considered playing Barry Manilow music?

by Mike S. on Sep 2, 2010 1:39 pm • linkreport

@carrie: So? That was ages ago. I don't think nothing has changed in the meantime.

by kidincredible on Sep 2, 2010 1:39 pm • linkreport

A pedestrian mall will help... Discourage loitering kids? How so?

by carrie on Sep 2, 2010 1:43 pm • linkreport

“The government has a substantial interest in protecting its citizens from unwelcome noise, an interest that is perhaps at its greatest when government seeks to protect the well-being, tranquility, and privacy of the home.”

by Nate on Sep 2, 2010 1:54 pm • linkreport

How did pedestrianizing Times Square turn that area into a warzone? It didn't.

You can't say it won't help things any more than I can say for sure it would work, but it's an idea someone came up with with a valid reasoning behind it. It's irresponsible to dismiss it under the guide of "tried it, didn't work" when the Verizon Center wasn't even built until 1997.

by kidincredible on Sep 2, 2010 1:55 pm • linkreport

Carrie's comment echos a thought that was running through my head, too... the sidewalks always feel so congested, but what if the street itself were turned over to sidewalk, too?

That is, what about a pedestrian mall along 7th between E or F up to H Street? Or perhaps a single NB lane which is bus/bike only.

Bus-wise, SB 70 and 71 would be diverted to either follow the SB Circulator down 9th; or over to 6th.

Car-wise it'd have to be evaluated what the impacts would be to 6th & 9th; and perhaps give consideration of operations as far as K&R operations for Metro, Verizon, or in general for the area.

It'd be easy to test... just close it with cones and barrels for a week & evaluate the results. A week wouldn't yield ideal long-term data, but it'd at least give a sampling of traffic effects as well as public opinion.

Not saying I necessarily support or oppose it... just offering it as food for thought.

by Bossi on Sep 2, 2010 1:58 pm • linkreport

There are health effects from annoying noises http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_effects_from_noise

Is it legal to subject the general public, loitering or not, to health effects without their consent? I doubt it.

by Brian on Sep 2, 2010 2:11 pm • linkreport

It's pretty horrible. Let me see if I understand this: a -private- (not public) developer has decided to give people headaches, et cetera when they are located in public space outside of the verizon center. The solution to this problem is a police presence. The loitering, threatening, and assault statutes are sufficiently vague that if they really wanted to do something, they could clean the area up in a hurry.

That said, teenagers hanging out is perfectly legal if they're not doing anything wrong (fights, harassment, etc), and if any of them has any harm because of this thing I hope the developer thought about the liability consequences. He has no dominion over a public street.

by rumpole on Sep 2, 2010 2:16 pm • linkreport

unlawful skateboarders have inflicted hundreds of thousands of dollars on the granite and marble surfaces

I wish someone would inflict that much money on me!

by Po' Boy on Sep 2, 2010 2:21 pm • linkreport

Okay, the fact that the noise isn't specific for teens negates the discrimination arguments. But if the device doesn't solve the problem of rowdy teens, doesn't that negate all the arguments in favor of it?

This isn't the sort of thing that requires months to see the effects. It should be immediate. It's been going on for at least days now. Have the troublesome teenagers disappeared from the area? If not, it's a failure, regardless of whether it's legal to assault the ears of the general public.

by Keith Ivey on Sep 2, 2010 2:24 pm • linkreport

Who wants to go there anyway? Suburban chain stores and chain resturants that are about as boring as they come.

by A. Huffington on Sep 2, 2010 2:28 pm • linkreport

@Nate; in the account I read yesterday on this (maybe TDB?) MPD already said this isn't a noise violation. I'm sure they can change their mind, and now I can't find that account. So I agree with you -- potential noise violation, but probably not.

by charlie on Sep 2, 2010 2:33 pm • linkreport

Regardless of how you feel about this device, it clearly doesn't work and should therefore be removed. Not only are the teens still there (which actually don't bother me that much), but the other people are still there too. The ones that sit around all day blocking the sidewalk next to the gate, selling cigarettes, playing music on their boombox, and sprawled out on the sidewalk sleeping or smoking.

Some people legitimately wait for the bus at that bus stop, but the majority of the people I see there are there when I come in to work, walk by for lunch, and head home in the evening. I'm particularly annoyed by the "entrepreneurs" who are clearly selling cigarettes and bootleg CDs/DVDs out of their backpacks in plain sight of police officers who don't seem to care. By the end of a summer day that area smells of cigarette smoke and body odor the likes of which I've only previously experienced when I got lost in Shanghai's ghetto.

by Teyo on Sep 2, 2010 2:58 pm • linkreport

I am resident of the neighborhood, I am glad something is being done. I don't know if the "buzzer" or whatever is the right move, but it is pretty disgraceful how the kids are trashing the area. For those who don't believe or understand, go watch the (beautiful) stairs at the Portrait Gallery and watch how many kids go get McDonalds, eat on the steps and then literally throw their garbage around. Its also a problem in front of CHipotle and in front of the theater. Frankly, I am astound how much littering happens in the city in general, but it is a huge problem in this area. Maybe some parents should come down and talk to their kids about manners.

by DinDC on Sep 2, 2010 3:11 pm • linkreport

DinDC, few are disagreeing that there's a problem, but why be "glad something is being done" if it doesn't help, especially if the fake solution itself has negative effects?

We need to go beyond the "logic" of "Something must be done. This is something. Therefore this must be done." How would this even theoretically help the Portrait Gallery steps at all?

by Keith Ivey on Sep 2, 2010 3:20 pm • linkreport

@ Keith Ivey

We need to go beyond the "logic" of "Something must be done. This is something. Therefore this must be done."

You must not read the streetcar discussion on this blog.

by DinDC on Sep 2, 2010 3:23 pm • linkreport

I wait for the 70 bus going home in this area fairly often, and I have no idea what people are talking about. What smells? I'm pretty sensitive to bad odors, and Chinatown is one of the cleaner places to be in DC. I just see a busy street and vibrant nightlife. Black teenagers, white teenagers, and people of all ages and races should be able to enjoy public areas how they please. While the shops inside might be private, the sidewalk is not (or at least shouldn't be).

by Anonymous on Sep 2, 2010 3:25 pm • linkreport

To the commentor that said under 18s are specifically exempt from the HUMAN RIGHTS law has several problems to it.

1) 14th Amendment Section 1 states that citizens must be treated equally (there is NO age limit on citizenship nor in section 1). So that applies. END OF STORY.

2) 25 and under are not exempted from the HUMAN RIGHTS law and since it affects them...guess what? TWO STRIKES AGAINST IT (see #1)

3). Under 18s aren't human? You dick.

by Lindsay on Sep 2, 2010 3:25 pm • linkreport

@Keith:

Why do you expect the property management company/developers to care about where the kids go so long as they're not on the property? Yes, the kids may be displaced from one location to somewhere else a few hundred feet away. But is it the property owners' responsibility to address the "root causes" of why some kids hang out there and act like uncivilized buffoons? Clearly the city hasn't dedicated the resources to "do something." But MPD has regularly complained to the Council that the current disorderly conduct and loitering laws don't allow officers to properly deal with public nuisances like some of the kids here (thanks again Phil Mendelson!). What's the property owner supposed to do?

by Fritz on Sep 2, 2010 3:30 pm • linkreport

"14th Amendment Section 1 states that citizens must be treated equally"

Not exactly what the 14th Amendment says, unfortunately.

I think you might be able to imagine some problems that it might pose in our society if that were the case. For example, the drinking age, child protection and labor laws, and so on.

These seem to have withstood the test of time without challenge on the basis that "all citizens must be treated equally."

"So that applies. END OF STORY."

Or not.

by Jamie on Sep 2, 2010 3:35 pm • linkreport

I am uncertain how increasing the police presence would have any different end result if one argument against this is "that it will just make the kids go cause trouble elsewhere." The police can't be everywhere, so even improved policing would only make the malefactors move on and harass people elsewhere, yes?

I won't board at Gallery Place, save for the Portrait Gallery entrance, if I can help it. I've seen exactly the boorish behavior that others have described. This is not a racial thing, it's a thug thing, and the recent fight only confirms it. There are plenty of well behaved kids in the area: what do we do with those who haven't quite figured the whole "civilization" thing out yet?

by Dave J on Sep 2, 2010 3:38 pm • linkreport

Fritz, where did I say the property manager/developers would care? DinDC isn't one of those, as far as I know, and specifically mentioned the Portrait Gallery steps.

by Keith Ivey on Sep 2, 2010 3:45 pm • linkreport

3). Under 18s aren't human? You d*ck.

LOL. funny. don't know if i'd go with the name-calling, but the basic sentiment is correct.

this surreptitious behavior does remind me another incident in history. maybe we can call this, The DCegee Experiment?

What if DC deployed a bunch of these next time the anarchists came for the World Bank protests?

we'd be happy to take them down for you. ;-D

the point is not to annoy everyone who walks through there (although it seems to be doing just that), but to annoy the people, teenagers or not, who stay there constantly and loiter.

Wrong. the device was specifically designed to annoy young people -- to single out a class of people. if you made the device annoying to _everyone_, then we could talk about whether this was a reasonable fix or not.

The government has a substantial interest in protecting its citizens from unwelcome noise

if this is true then we need to ban most motorized traffic from not only Gallery Place, but all of DC immediately -- including, but not limited to, cars, trucks, buses, and scooters/mopeds/motorcycles.

i'm actually very sympathetic to the idea of preventing this type of loitering-to-terrorize anti-social behavior - and this type of behavior often is a form of terrorism. out in San Francisco, there have been a recent spate of attacks of roving groups of mostly-minority black/Latino teens harassing/robbing/attacking/murdering people (yes, i said murdering people).

it does seem like a difficult problem to solve overnight, but there are things we can do, like:
1) get the police on it. if there are crimes being committed, and there obviously are, then it can be a police matter,
2) talk about it openly, in public,
3) get input from the teens to talk about it,
4) figure out the root causes of the behavior:

  • is it lack of jobs? i know DC has near-full employment, at least compared to the rest of the country, but is that true for blacks, and in particular, black teens who, around the country, have not seen worse job prospects since this type of data was first starting to be collected decades ago?
  • is it some strain of tv/music/culture, like the violence promoted on shows like Jersey Shore?
  • is it soldiers returning from Iraq telling their stories or rape and murder of innocents?
  • is it ongoing surfacing of police torture-of-minorities scandals from Chicago and other police departments?
  • is it a lack of a safe/dignified/convenient way for teens to ride their bikes in the city, so they're confined to spending what little money they have on Metro, thus forcing them to end up at Metro stations, and then have no money left to spend on goods/services at Gallery Place, and/or they are forced to skip fares on Metro altogether, which helps contribute to an anti-social environment?
  • is there a general lack of things to do for young people? no nice lit skateparks and basketball courts (where, in NJ, I and our entire neighborhood used to hang on late summer nights)?

i'm very happy to see this blog call out a private developer over this behavior.

we should work to prevent anti-social behavior first, instead of addressing it after the fact -- ounce of prevention/pound of cure and all that.

also, it'd be nice if groups/entities/businesses/organizations/governments felt free to contact this blog or other groups within the city -- like any of various non-profits -- to brainstorm about possible solutions to any number of city/urban problems.

by Peter Smith on Sep 2, 2010 4:12 pm • linkreport

@Lindsay - If you were my TV attorney, I'd fire you.

@Keith - You're arguing the Mosquito is a "fake solution" b/c it doesn't solve the problem of kids hanging out around the area. My point is: so what? I think the property owner is simply trying to deal with uncivilized behavior closest to its property, rather than solving societal ills. What would you suggest they do if having private security isn't solving the issue and MPD also isn't solving the problem?

by Fritz on Sep 2, 2010 4:16 pm • linkreport

"is it soldiers returning from Iraq telling their stories or rape and murder of innocents?"

Ok, I think it's safe to say we've gone off the deep end...

by TimK on Sep 2, 2010 4:17 pm • linkreport

The frightening aspect of this article, and many of the comments left here, is that it shows a marked detachment of liberty and responsibility. The author of the article demands liberty for a particular group of citizens without also demanding this group to be responsible for their actions. The two cannot exist separate from one another.

Without liberty, there is no avenue for personal responsibility, only control from a dominant external force. Indeed, the author demands this external force, personified in the local police agency, to remove all personal responsibility from the individuals whose liberty they seek to protect. Without responsibility, liberty becomes license to do or say whatever this group may want without having a single thought of any consequences or cost of injury should any arise. Both are required.

I'd suggest the author read this: http://www.maxmore.com/libresp.htm and consider the ramifications of a world where liberty is defended while responsibility is never required. If the teenagers in question demand liberty to assemble and gather in public places as they please, then they MUST also exert personal responsibility in their actions and demand it of their peers.

by DM on Sep 2, 2010 4:42 pm • linkreport

Maybe some parents should come down and talk to their kids about manners.

LOL. If these little thugs had parents who cared about raising good kids, the problem wouldn't exist to begin with.

by DinMD on Sep 2, 2010 4:42 pm • linkreport

Forget about teenagers... is this thing actually preventing MOSQUITOS from congregating there? That would be awesome for sidewalk cafes.

by M.V. Jantzen on Sep 2, 2010 4:50 pm • linkreport

Can the noise be heard by people waiting for buses at the stops on 7th & H. If so they are also hurting people whom commute via the bus and take the buses there.

We should not have a blame all for one person what should be done is you get rid of that person.

It cant be just because of stores because of Union Station it use to have a movie theater etc and they never had the same problems.

Teenagers are loud in general go to any country you will find problems with youth. I have been to Russia, Australia, Egypt, Brazil & Germany and have witnessed annoying teenagers doing the same stuff.

by kk on Sep 2, 2010 4:54 pm • linkreport

@kk

Totally agree with your last paragraph. Teenagers are loud, and left to their own devices can be quite disruptive. This transcends our local issues of race and class.

And the movie theater at Union Station was also pretty bad. I quit going about 8 years ago as it was very disruptive.

by TimK on Sep 2, 2010 5:02 pm • linkreport

This does not only deter teenagers. I am 29 and my boyfriend is 30, and we can both hear the tones. I clicked through to the site, played the tone for the under 25, and from across the room and over the noise of tv he was terribly annoyed by it. The one for under 35 sounded like it was going to make our ears bleed. We would not go into a business that was playing this.

by Jenny on Sep 2, 2010 5:10 pm • linkreport

Perhaps a better idea would be to play classical music, or opera. There have been studies that show that not only does it have a calming effect, but some groups can't stand it, and thus would move away.

Meanwhile, actual commuters won't be bombarded with an uncomfortable noise

by JJJJJ on Sep 2, 2010 5:20 pm • linkreport

@DM: I don't think anyone was arguing for an abdication of responsibility Â… the author specifically asked for police enforcement. That's the city's responsibility.

by Anonymous on Sep 2, 2010 5:24 pm • linkreport

@ TimK

I dont remember there ever being any problem like it is at Gallery Place at least when I went there (last time was when it was still a AMC theater).

I forgot about the riots in Greece, France, & the Netherlands were done by people where the majority was under 25 or 30 and there were minors present.

The mosquito tone is the worst thing that could be done
1 you are effecting more than those who cause the trouble.
2 will have a mad group of people who caused the problems and did not.
3 people between 0-35 might not shop there
4 parents with small children/babies; babies can hear the sound perfectly and they will constantly cry until removed from the sound and parents wont know why they are crying.

The ending result will be the damn machine broken and in this case i'm willing to accept that because a person decided to put this up and blaming all for one persons problem.

I agree that something should be done; but it should not effect innocent people who are there walking pass, waiting for a bus or going in/out of the subway and dont have a damn thing to do with it.

This is present throughout history go read any book about riots, society, youth, culture etc. Ancient Greece, the Pilgrims, England, ancient Egyptians, ancient India, the Near east etc.

It doesn't matter what time you get alot of youth, substance intoxicated people of any age, or a majority group of people from one gender and a minority of another gender you will have a damn problem.

Somethings of the past centuries and decades has made this easier and or more often but thats another issue.

by kk on Sep 2, 2010 5:28 pm • linkreport

"For those who don't believe or understand, go watch the (beautiful) stairs at the Portrait Gallery and watch how many kids go get McDonalds, eat on the steps and then literally throw their garbage around."

Yes, but do the means justify the end? We can ban all people from the streets or shoot litterers on sight, which would solve the littering problem quite quickly. Of course, that's not a reasonable means to this end.

Similarly, is it worth it to indiscriminately ban all people of a certain age (or hearing level) from an area? I honestly can't say that the conditions at Gallery Place are any worse than your average crowded urban downtown. (Actually, I'd argue that it's cleaner and more civil!)

by andrew on Sep 2, 2010 5:35 pm • linkreport

The Union Station theater was ghet-to. That's why it closed, because people stopped going there. Who wants to see a movie you can't hear?

by Uncle Ben on Sep 2, 2010 5:37 pm • linkreport

I want a sign that says "No Pillaging"

by Bossi on Sep 2, 2010 5:37 pm • linkreport

I'm a young adult and I don't see a problem with this. A lot of people my age act like bloody buffoons and basically ruin things for the rest of us who don't go around starting fights and doing stupid shit.

I really don't buy the "They have nothing better to do" argument. I don't own a car, I don't own a gun (to go to a firing range), I can't buy booze and until last year I couldn't gamble. Yet my friends and I still managed to enjoy ourselves. Walking around, seeing movies (and not talking through the whole god damn thing), playing video games etc.

by Martin on Sep 2, 2010 5:44 pm • linkreport

So, hypothetical question. I'm a new parent and I want to bring my 1-2 year old child shopping with me. I enter a store with a Mosquito device install and my child spontaneously starts crying, for no reason I can identify.

I spend ten minutes panicking, trying to figure out why my child is going into a fit. Finally, I leave the store in frustration and attempt to enter another establishment, also equiped with a Mosquito. My child once again erupts into hysterics because of a noise only the child can hear. Other shoppers - and possibly a store clerk hasn't been filled in - now get to experience the whining of a newborn infant child, once again for absolutely no reason anyone but the baby can discern.

So now I'm a mortified parent, my child is an emotional wreck, and all the shoppers are disgusted with my inability to control my kid.

Once I figure out what is going on, is it within my legal right to rip this device off the wall and cram it down the business owner's throat?

by Zifnab25 on Sep 2, 2010 7:06 pm • linkreport

Well then Zifnab, you are clearly a bad parent.

No one is keeping anyone away from these places, they're just making it more annoying to be there. No one is infringing on your (non existent?) right to walk around where ever you want. Its just something that makes a buzzing sound. Its not that loud.

Deal with it, nerd.

by jordache on Sep 2, 2010 7:53 pm • linkreport

Lol, remarkably obvious trolling there, jordache.

Hahaha, "nerd", goddamn.

by fffffffffff on Sep 2, 2010 8:55 pm • linkreport

well good thing my hearing sucks majorly, probably can't hear it anyway (and I'm only 19)

by Rob on Sep 2, 2010 10:01 pm • linkreport

Similarly, is it worth it to indiscriminately ban all people of a certain age (or hearing level) from an area?

It just keeps them from loitering, forcing them to "move along." While it doesn't technically ban older people from loitering in the area, adults generally have better things to do than stand around in large groups harassing passers-by.

They should learn to gather in groups in the parking lots of 7-11s, like the rest of us suburbanites did when we were teenagers.

by Tyro on Sep 2, 2010 10:39 pm • linkreport

Thanks for the article, Eric. And look at the lively discussion! Let's all take a deep breath and remember what is was like to be a teenager. Many of us spent time at the mall because that's where you can browse/shop, get cheap food, hang out, see a movie. This is Gallery Place! Teenagers deserve to go here too.

by Laura on Sep 3, 2010 6:42 am • linkreport

Martin, everything except your first sentence had nothing to do with whats going on.

by qqqqqqq on Sep 3, 2010 7:51 am • linkreport

@Laura

I don't know about you, but when I was a teenager, if I'd assaulted adults on the sidewalk, spit on them, or hurled racial epithets at them, I'd *still* be grounded, and I'm over 40 now.

The base problem seems to be that these kids don't understand consequences, and everyone is too afraid of the race card being played to impose any.

by Dave J on Sep 3, 2010 8:01 am • linkreport

Deal with it, nerd.
I thought I was dealing with it pretty well. I just wanted some legal advice.

That said, I'm pretty sure if you walk around a mall blasting an air horn, you can be arrested for creating a public nuisance. It seems like Mosquitos would fall under the same statute.

They've got the sounds posted up here.
http://journal.plasticmind.com/ears/mosquito-tone-or-how-to-tell-youre-a-youngun/

by Zifnab25 on Sep 3, 2010 9:28 am • linkreport

Jeez are all of you who are ridiculously up in arms about this really such delicate flowers, that you just can't take a buzzing sound within legal noise limits for a couple of seconds while you enter/exit the stop?!

What on earth happens to you when you hear an amublance go by or a baby start to cry - insta-migranes, bleeding ears, death? Do they infringe on your right to walk on a sidewalk too? Is it enough for you to never go outisde for fear of hearing a loud noise?

It's NOT loud enough to cause damage (and it's laughable to even attempt to compare it to an airhorn), it's not meant to prevent you from ever using that area. Just don't hang around there for no good reason (i.e., loiter), which you should not be doing anyway, and your delicate sensibilities will be juuuust fine.

I, for one, would much rather endure the "torture" that you all seem to think these things are, than those crowds of kids harassing, yelling, shoving, spitting on me. Franky they're much louder and annoying.

by poc on Sep 3, 2010 10:01 am • linkreport

jordache: Some people pointed it out already, but name calling is not appropriate or tolerated here on GGW. You are welcome to disagree with other commenters, but please disagree by debating their points, not throwing around terms, however not-so-insulting they might be.

by David Alpert on Sep 3, 2010 10:06 am • linkreport

I, for one, would much rather endure the "torture" that you all seem to think these things are, than those crowds of kids harassing, yelling, shoving, spitting on me
In my three decades of existence, in the thousands of malls I've visited, through the millions of teenagers I've passed by, not a single one has spit on me. I've been harassed a few times by kids, but I've been harassed far more often by adults. And yet both situations were extremely rare, given the number of times I've gone shopping. This from a kid who grew up in Jersey and made frequent visits to Manhattan and the Bronx.

So maybe I'm just not wearing the same "Shove me, harass me, spit on me" sign you're wearing. Or maybe some of these Mosquito enthusiasts are just anti-social assholes who run around provoking people and acting shocked when they push back.

A high frequency buzz isn't going to make anyone treat you with additional respect.

by Andy on Sep 3, 2010 10:35 am • linkreport

So, Eric you've written for this site since November of 2009 and this is the first time you've chosen to write about "civil rights." Nothing since then has happened to raise your ire? Are you sure this post isn't just a way to make it seem like you're a champion of civil rights? Seems to me that if you really cared about the state of well-being for these kids, you would have advocated for better housing, education or employment opportunities somewhere along the lines. I'm sure there's, at least, one instance of police brutality you could have mentioned. But you didn't. Telling.

by Jacob on Sep 3, 2010 10:41 am • linkreport

@andy, in your three decades of existance you must not have hung around the chinatown stop that much. I haven't personally have all of those things happen to me (at least not often) at that stop, but all it takes is scanning the comments above to realize that those things do indeed happen there at an alarming frequency. I certainly don't have those experiences everywhere, and didn't mean to imply that I did.

The high frequency buzz is't trying to instill respect in the punks who have made it an annoyance and danger for normal people of all ages to walk through and around that area. It's trying to get them to stop loitering. I hope it succeeds.

by poc on Sep 3, 2010 11:28 am • linkreport

Also, I love that you try to brand me as the anti-social asshole. Nice.

by poc on Sep 3, 2010 11:31 am • linkreport

I think this thing is freaking brilliant. If it works, I'll pay any price for a set of them to mount in my neighborhood!! Discriminating against people under 18 has always been legal. We don't think America's young are responsible enough to have the privilege to vote, get bank loans, join the military, or buy pornography, cigarettes, lottery tickets, or R rated movie tickets. Similarly, we have subsequently decided that America's young are not responsible enough, even at 18, 19, or 20, to have a credit card or buy alcohol. I don't think it's a very far stretch to say they also can't be responsible enough to congregate in groups without throwing trash on the street, being loud and boisterous, blocking sidewalks for others, and in some cases, engaging in violent attacks or thefts. I'd love one of these for the bus stop on my block, and if they make a portable version, I'd put it in my briefcase and switch it on every time I got on the Metro :)

by hillguy on Sep 3, 2010 12:40 pm • linkreport

Alright, so a 23 year old professional intern at a government agency and student at a elite university is exiting the metro and waiting for a bus.

I guess they are unwelcome as well

by TXSteveW on Sep 3, 2010 1:50 pm • linkreport

Aside from whether or not you think it's a good idea to oppress black teenagers with the sonic equivalent of a firehouse, I think this legal analysis misses another vector for eliminating the device and/or punishing the gallery place developer who put it there. In addition to the DC Human Rights law, I think that young people at Gallery Place have a common law claim against the developer for "public nuisance," which essentially says you can't unreasonably interfere, annoy, or affect the health, safety, well-being of the public. In order to bring a claim, there have to be people with specific claims against the perpetrator of the nuisance - I think there'd be a good case by under 25 workers at Gallery Place who are having their commute and/or their work interfered with by the device.

by Tom on Sep 3, 2010 2:21 pm • linkreport

Good riddance to the hordes of unruly, disrespectful, often violent and criminal teenagers. Though I still won't go to Gallery Place/Chinatown; DC's own soulless suburbanesque Generica.

by Josh on Sep 3, 2010 4:29 pm • linkreport

For people saying that the noise is not loud or your not supposed to stand around there.

How many of you car hear it, go into the att store (you can hear it inside there) or take the bus at those stops (x2, P6, 80, 70, 71 or 79) I excluded the circulator because it runs frequently and you wont be there that long.

If you are waiting for the bus there and are present there for 10, 20 or 30 minutes that noise will get on your damn nerves.

How about putting one on 18th Street and U street and turn them on Friday & Saturday nights only.

by kk on Sep 3, 2010 5:09 pm • linkreport

While I'm all for curbing the hooliganism at Gallery Place, this tactic is addressing the symptom but not the cause. It will just push the crowd elsewhere along with the associated bad behavior.

What this crowd needs is something to do. For example, host free concerts over in the Navy Memorial featuring local acts. Do a "DC's got Talent" or "Night at the Apollo" type of format. Give the kids a place to hang out and dance. Other venues could include the NGA Sculpture Garden, the Mall, or one of the Gallery Place performance theaters in the winter. For a production and stage team, the DC Community College could open a Audiovisual/Stage Production program that could run the shows.

by Smoke_Jaguar4 on Sep 3, 2010 10:17 pm • linkreport

Are you seriously suggesting that the only reason you didn't assault people on the sidewalk as a child was that you weren't sufficiently bored enough to do so?

by Dave J on Sep 4, 2010 12:02 pm • linkreport

Of course, there are other, perhaps more effective devices than the Mosquito to deal with some of these punks:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KvO-8IvoCI

by Bill in DC on Sep 4, 2010 5:28 pm • linkreport

Actually, these things can be easily considered an ADA violation.

I'm 30, and can hear them clearly. I also have autism and synesthesia. I've known of these things for a while, but first heard one on NPR a few days ago. The noise literally crippled me. I really can't begin to describe the pain it caused. Having these in any area completely bar me equal access that's promised to me by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

I hope I never see one of these in person, but the rate things are going, I have a feeling I will. :(

by Jaden on Sep 4, 2010 8:29 pm • linkreport

Wow, I too am shocked (but shouldn't be) at the widespread endorsement of discrimination, so long as that discrimination is aimed at an age group rather than a race.

If certain young people are causing problems, let's have actual police on the beat to deal with the specific individuals causing the problem, not paint everyone with the same discriminatory brush: "those people" are "just like that".

@hillguy: "we have subsequently decided that America's young are not responsible enough, even at 18, 19, or 20, to have a credit card or buy alcohol. I don't think it's a very far stretch to say they also can't be responsible enough to congregate in groups without throwing trash on the street, being loud and boisterous, blocking sidewalks for others, and in some cases, engaging in violent attacks or thefts."

That's funny, because I congregated in groups with my friends when I was a teenager and we didn't throw trash on the street, block sidewalks, or engage in violent acts. (I'll give you "loud and boisterous.") And the majority of teenagers do not.

I've said it before: if you have little to no money and can't drink legally, "loitering" is your social life. Do none of you remember what it was like to be 17?

by Erica on Sep 5, 2010 2:45 am • linkreport

@Jaden:

I know exactly what you're talking about and I think you're right. This device is discriminatory towards most people on the autism spectrum. For those who are unaware, most people on the autism spectrum have sensory issues which cause extreme discomfort and are often incapacitating. I can't imagine how anyone on the spectrum is going to be able to tolerate this.

It's bad enough to have a disability. It is morally reprehensible to selectively target people with disabilities.

by bl on Sep 5, 2010 11:29 am • linkreport

This is outrageous! Chinatown is the best place for young people to hang out with many of their friends in DC and if they try to stop us from going there, I swear we'll retaliate and assert our rights. Young people can protest much better than old, and with more enthusiasm and vigor.

by Kevin Saucedo-Broach on Sep 5, 2010 12:17 pm • linkreport

As someone who is only their 20s and was a teenager in recent memory, you know perhaps they behave badly in public is because they lack the discipline that only comes from someone directly confronting them or from experiencing negative consequences for their actions? I know what stopped me from doing certain things was my parents or being smart enough to know I'd get caught by the authorities otherwise.

Excluding them from an area with this heinous device and telling them to move along does not accomplish this. Only having a cop or security guard get in their face will work, IMO. Then of course, when it is understood by both sides what the rules are, over a period time the issue will be abated or at least minimized to a reasonable level.

Then of course its not the job of a shopping mall manager to care about this if it bothers their snooty customers, and I figure most "city" people who cry on about "community" don't really give a shit either, do they? Just move the problem along.

by TXSteveW on Sep 5, 2010 4:24 pm • linkreport

So we have definite declarations that these things violate the Constitution, the DC Human Rights Law, and the ADA.

Would anyone like to issue a legal pronouncement as to whether they are also a violation of the Geneva Conventions and therefore are clearly a war crime?

by Fritz on Sep 5, 2010 5:52 pm • linkreport

According to the white liberals on here, having dark skin justifies harassing other people because there is nothing better for young black kids to do.

That sort of permissive attitude is also what allows DC's black population to have a 5% AIDS rate and black males in DCPS graduate at a rate of ~40%.

If time was spent studying instead of harassing people, crime would go down and graduation rates would go up.

White DC liberals tend to justify fights in and around the Metro system by black youth along the lines of "well that's what kids do", but I've never heard of one of these stories not involving black youths.

I will be labeled as a race-baiting troll, but as veterans here know, I actually use facts (as above) to show my points, even if the conclusions sit uneasily with the social liberals.

Please let me know if any of my points are factually or logically incorrect.

Ultimately, the trouble-making youths are not simply misguided youths. How often do you hear about pervasive harassment out of Fairfax or Montgomery county hangouts?

The problem is that these youths do not understand self-discipline and have been told their whole lives by sensitive white liberals that all of their outlashes against society are justified because of their skin color. If their families will not subject them to discipline, perhaps these youths ought to be disciplined by police (preferably) or local business owners (as it appears to have come to that point).

As a final thought, simply consider this. If you were a property owner, how would you feel about youths engaging in harassing behavior on a 'public' sidewalk in front of your property?

by MPC on Sep 5, 2010 7:13 pm • linkreport

@MPC, Yes you are a race baiting troll,but one step further is that you are a mindless idiot. If you really had a clue or even cared, you would at the very least take in account cultural variables before you open your racist mind to the rest of the free world. Bottom line though, is kids are kids it's polarizing (chumps) like you that keep the nonsense going. So f#@k off jerk.

by another native on Sep 5, 2010 8:32 pm • linkreport

Alpert, please enforce your own rules and reprimand the name-calling attack on me.

by MPC on Sep 5, 2010 9:04 pm • linkreport

Bottom line though, is kids are kids

I would be curious how many of the troublemakers at Gallery Place are white.

by MPC on Sep 5, 2010 9:05 pm • linkreport

another native:
Please refrain from ad hominem attacks. If you disagree with another commenter in one of our threads, I would encourage you to use logic and reason to refute his or her claims. Do not resort to name calling or attacks on the person with whom you disagree.

Thank you for understanding.

by Matt Johnson, Assistant Editor on Sep 5, 2010 9:41 pm • linkreport

@another native

It's funny that you label MPC a racist and then cite "cultural reasons" for the black youths' unruly behavior. What you're essentially saying is that black people, by virtue of their culture, are inherently violent, disrespectful, and less civilized than white people. That, by the way, is the definition of racism. Stating that blacks have low graduation rates and that, as a result, they are more likely to engage in behaviors outside of studying (such as loitering) is called drawing a conclusion based on a fact. Any moral high ground that you might claim was also rapidly lost when you engaged in direct personal attacks.

by Teyo on Sep 5, 2010 9:46 pm • linkreport

MPC, you said:
"I would be curious how many of the troublemakers at Gallery Place are white."

Here's the great thing about deploying actual, live police rather than employing automated broad-brush exclusionary tactics: it doesn't matter! If a particular kid is causing problems, discipline that particular kid. That way, you don't have to conclusively figure out which demographic group should take the hit for the crimes of their cohort, or how best to harass and persecute Group A while leaving Group B alone.

Instead, you simply treat people as individuals and hold them responsible for their own actions, not those of whatever "undesirable" group they happen to belong to. A radical concept, yes, and one that requires more work than All Teenagers Are Bad or All Black Teenagers Are Bad. And yet, some might consider this approach of judging each individual on his/her own behavior alone to be fundamental to a just society.

by Erica on Sep 6, 2010 8:48 am • linkreport

If you actually read my post rather, you would see that I clearly stated that I would prefer police action to the noisemaker.

If their families will not subject them to discipline, perhaps these youths ought to be disciplined by police (preferably) or local business owners (as it appears to have come to that point).

Please actually read my posts before commenting in the future.

Try again.

by MPC on Sep 6, 2010 10:12 am • linkreport

If a particular kid is causing problems, discipline that particular kid.

And then moan about racial profiling when the arrests are predominately from one ethnic group? Because you know that that is exactly what is going to occur.

Really there is no way to win this, it seems: and the thugs know it. Their apologists will defend them to the end, so they can act as they please. And the worst part of it is that the thugs are a tiny minority of the teenagers who hang out at Gallery Place, but a very visible one. Since nobody will do anything about them, the other kids get tarred with being exactly the same.

by Dave J on Sep 6, 2010 1:33 pm • linkreport

That's exactly my point,if a kid that's exuberating that kind of behavior just happens to be a black kid, you don't lump all black kids in that catagory.As for my calling MPC a name, I will refraim but I only repeated what they said for the mosy part. When's the last time you visited the (South Boston) area, who are the culprit's of this kind of behavior there.

by another native on Sep 6, 2010 2:22 pm • linkreport

Having been to Gallery Place yesterday and heard the Mosquito (both me and Mrs. Fritz apparently have the hearing abilities of teenagers), I can safely opine that the claims of this thing being a violation of all laws known to humanity are overblown hyperbole.

It makes the same constant buzzing/humming noise as an old analog TV does when it's turned on. I could hear it at the top of the Metro stairs and could barely hear it across the street by Starbucks. It didn't cause me to go into convulsions, give me a migraine, or make me feel that my ear's rights had been violated. It's simply a slight, annoying buzzing that doesn't discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, or apparently, age.

by Fritz on Sep 6, 2010 2:28 pm • linkreport

if a kid that's exuberating that kind of behavior just happens to be a black kid, you don't lump all black kids in that catagory

I didn't say that all black kids are troublemakers. I said that all the troublemakers at Gallery Place are black.

Based off of all known accounts, I am correct.

by MPC on Sep 6, 2010 3:47 pm • linkreport

I'm 43 and I can hear the noise on the NPR link. It is painful.

by mike on Sep 7, 2010 8:16 am • linkreport

Honestly? I'm very law-abiding, but these things are a public nuisance and actually an immediate health hazard to some of us, including those on the autism spectrum. If I found myself near one I would (after returning with earplugs) track its location down and smash it. And I encourage others to do the same.

by Nathanael on Sep 8, 2010 2:52 am • linkreport

???????

When I heard about this technology I originally thought it would be illegal for general use in the USA as it is an electronic weapon(an electronic version of mace).

You should consult with an attorney and sue the crap out of the developer for risking potential harm against D.C's youth.

Also contact local Prosecutors as this may be a violation of criminal law's(akin to misusing a gun).

If that fails your in D.C, protest in front of Congress or the White House.

I feel for you guy's, if they even tried this technology in NEPA, I am sure the speakers wouldn't last 24 hours.

But what I suggest you do immediately is get a a bunch of young people who have legitimate reason to be there(paying customers) to go to that area to do business and call the cop's.

These devices emit a kind of sound, sound is regulated under "noise disturbances", and it may even be a general violation of the peace.

Just don't give it, grab ear muffs and stage sit-ins. If you guy's and gal's plan a protest around October-November(if it isn't resolved by then), try and make it well known to us, that technology isn't right.

P.S

Also try and find out who put it up, what their address and home phone number are, we can't let them get away with this.

by Kris W on Sep 14, 2010 11:48 pm • linkreport

I'm 23 years old. I hold a master's degree from a Top 10 university and am a full-time employee at a federal agency. If Chinatown retailers aren't interested in my money, I guess I'll have to patronize bland suburban chain restaurants somewhere else.

by Drew on Dec 8, 2011 12:56 pm • linkreport

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