Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

Did someone install a teen anti-loitering device at the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro stop?

August 31, 2010 - 12:26 PM
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The device outside the Gallery Place Metro station. (TBD)

We've spent the morning trying to figure that out.

Yesterday the Prince of Petworth posted some photos of a white, box-like contraption hanging at the top of the Metro escalators at 7th and H streets NW. As PoP noted, the device looks an awful lot like the Mosquito, a controversial device that came out of South Wales just a few years ago. The Mosquito emits annoying, high-pitched sounds intended to drive off loiterers. According to Wikipedia, the frequencies are high enough that usually only people under 25 can hear it -- in other words, it's supposed to discourage teenagers from hanging around.

We headed over to the Metro station this morning. The device is bracketed to the wall about twelve feet off the ground, just outside Zengo restaurant, Washington Sports Club, and an AT&T store. We couldn't find any marks identifying it as a Mosquito, but we can confirm that the box is constantly emitting a slight but grating beeping sound that can still be heard a good fifty feet from the source. We also found that the sound occurs at a frequency capable of annoying adults.

Reggie Woodruff, a WMATA spokesman, said the box was certainly not installed by the agency. A spokeswoman for the D.C. police said no one in the public information office knows anything about the device but she's double-checking to make sure its not theirs.

That leaves the property owners and managers. We're waiting to hear back from FLGA LLC, a co-developer and owner of the vast Gallery Place complex. A guard at the desk of The Residences at Gallery Place, next door to Zengo, said the property manager is on vacation this week.

An employee at the AT&T store says the box appeared "about two weeks ago," right around the time of the high-profile Metro brawl that apparently started at the Gallery Place Metro. The area has long been a hangout for teenagers after school and on weekend nights.

Three teenagers sitting near the escalators around noon today said they were unfazed by the new beeping sound. "I kind of like it," one said. A group of a half-dozen men idling nearby continued to ogle women coming off the Metro, apparently not bothered in the least by the device.

Tony Washington, who was nursing a chocolate milkshake and a cigarette as he leaned on some spare escalator parts, said that for several minutes he thought the sound was coming from his watch. He kept putting his wrist to his ear. Once he became convinced the watch was fine, "I didn't pay it no mind," he said.

A woman standing next to Washington said she first noticed the sound yesterday. "They haven't fixed it yet," she volunteered. Informed that it might be designed to annoy, she said, "Oh."

A group of women passing by the device stopped when they heard the sound. "Something's beeping," one of them said. "Do you hear something beeping?" Confused, she turned in circles looking for the source.

Three Downtown BID workers stationed outside the Metro said they'd been hearing the sound for several days but didn't even know where it was coming from. "Why don't they make it louder?" one of them asked, noting that kids continue to flock to the area. "They should put those things all up and down the street here."

We'll update when we learn more.