Whether you can hear the sound or not, ‘Mosquito’ sonic devices shouldn’t be in our parks

One of the mosquito devices at East Poplar park. (Anannya Kundu for WHYY)

One of the mosquito devices at East Poplar park. (Anannya Kundu for WHYY)

This story originally appeared on PlanPhilly.

Markward Playground is a small park near the Schuylkill River. I often go there for a walk or to look at the view, so I was upset to learn that this park has planted “Mosquitos” — the sonic device that targets young people my age, those 25 and under.

I went to the park after-hours, around 10 p.m. to hear this sound for myself. I expected to hear a piercing sound, like what I heard on WHYY, but I didn’t hear anything — just the casual buzzing from the lights.

Since my ears didn’t pick up any sound from these devices at Markward Playground, I decided to go to two more parks that have been reported to have the Mosquitos: Hancock Playground and East Poplar Playground. I was also there in the evening, around 10:30 to 11 p.m. but again, I heard nothing in either park.

Maybe I was too early and the devices were actually on yet or maybe my 19-year-old ears weren’t picking up the sound. I don’t know. What I do know is that these devices shouldn’t be in our parks.

As a young photographer, I enjoy walking around the city and going to parks to take pictures or hang out with my friends. Knowing that these devices are in parks all over Philly truly makes me feel discriminated against and not valid as a person. These Mosquitos are a discriminatory device against young people and they do not belong in our public parks.

Why do older generations think the worst about my generation and the young people of Philadelphia? They overlook everything we have done to work on a better future. We have protested against gun violence, organized around climate change, embraced and supported the LGBTQ+ community. But they don’t see any of that and it’s infuriating. We want to hang out at parks, not destroy them. The idea that these devices will prevent vandalism, loitering, and other small, pretty crimes is insulting, because it assumes that only young people commit crimes and that it’s all we want to do if we’re at a park at night. As if people over 25 are never do anything wrong. It’s absurd.

The design of this device is discriminatory and the way it’s used is just as bad. They are set up to go off “after hours.” Why does a public park even have hours? Public parks are meant to be enjoyed by everyone, especially young people. They are free places to hang out and they should not be treated as private property, even after hours. Where are we to hang out after school? Where can we go during the summer months when we’re off school? We don’t have jobs and if we do, we have little money. These public places are meant to be accessible, but this device makes them beyond inaccessible — it makes them unbearable. Literally, our ears cannot endure the sound.

We young Philadelphians need to be treated with respect and understanding, like any adult would be.

It is discouraging to have our city treat us as potential threats, rather than the leaders of tomorrow. It shows us that they don’t believe in us and that they’d rather spend money on kicking us out of parks instead of investing in our schools, creating jobs for us and opportunities. They’d rather force us to follow the rules than teach us the importance of following the rules. They’d rather bring negative judgement into our lives, than something positive, like programs to engage us and community activities.

The city’s actions are being heard louder than any mosquito device.

These devices should be removed immediately from parks and not allowed to be installed anywhere else. The city should take those funds and put them towards enriching the lives of young people instead of treating them like criminals.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.