City councilwoman looks to ban high-pitched alarms aimed at driving away loiterers

An unmistakable sound that’s blared throughout Spokane over the years is meant to drive away loiterers, but one councilwoman is so annoyed of them, she’s drafting up a proposal to get rid of them altogether.

If you’ve walked through downtown or past the 7-Eleven on Division within the last few years, chances are, you’ve probably heard a high-pitched sound blaring from speakers nearby. It’s a sound that’s hard to miss and it’s coming from something called a Mosquito speaker — it’s meant to drive away loiterers, but council member Kate Burke thinks there are other options out there.

“They’re very loud and obnoxious,” Burke told 4 News Now. “It’s not really adding a quality of life that I think is really pleasurable for our community, so I thought, ‘let’s just ban ’em.'” ​​​

Over the years, business owners have said the speakers drive loiterers away and give business a boost. Burke, on the other hand, believes the speakers discriminate against kids in Spokane.

READ: Business uses sound to fight crime and dissuade loiterers

“It’s such a high-pitched noise that it’s meant for young adults and children,” Burke said. “To me, that says, ‘we don’t want young kids to be downtown in this area, sitting around’ and I think that downtown is for everyone.”

Some speakers send out such a high frequency, only people ages 13 to 25 can hear it. Others send out a frequency that can be heard by anyone of any age.

“To me, you can’t pick and choose who sits in a public spot,” Burke said. “You just, you can’t do that.”

Burke wants to turn the attention toward finding solutions for teen homelessness.

“I feel like, if we really want to get to the root of the problem, and we really want to solve these issues, we need to look further upstream,” she said. “If we look further upstream, why are these kids not at home? Do they feel unsafe at home? Let’s solve that problem.”

Burke and the rest of the city council cannot vote on her ordinance until the Public Safety Committee reviews it Dec. 2. She told 4 News Now she’s hoping to vote on the proposal in late December or early January.