High-Pitch Noise Device Installed to Keep Poor People Away From Vancouver Public Transit Station
A high pitched alarm has been placed outside of a public transit station in Vancouver to “prevent gatherings” of unhoused people
A high-pitched “mosquito alarm” was recently placed outside of a public transit station in Vancouver to “prevent gatherings” of homeless people.
A “mosquito alarm” was recently noticed by individuals who live and work near the busy Skytrain station in Downtown Vancouver.
An apparent “mosquito alarm” has been installed at the Main and Terminal SkyTrain station at Thornton Park.
It’s constantly plays a loud, piercing, high-pitched noise to discourage unhoused people from gathering. People stay in Thornton Park for safety.
— Aaron Bailey (@Aaron_R_Bailey) July 4, 2023
Mosquito alarms are a piece of hostile architecture intended to deter unhoused people from gathering or loitering in public spaces.
Main and Terminal station is located across the street from Thornton Park, a public park that is often used as a place of refuge for unhoused people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
In a statement to PressProgress, Translink explained that the device is intended to “prevent gatherings.”
“TransLink has received dozens of reports of disorderly conduct and criminal activity at the Main Street-Science World SkyTrain station over recent months,” Translink’s spokesperson said in the statement. “In an effort to address this challenge and prevent gatherings at station entrances we have tested a device which emits a high frequency noise to determine its effectiveness.”
Translink added that the “device is not active currently.”
“We will consider all options to ensure the safety of our transit riders and employees. We have no plans to turn it back on at this stage.”
The Vancouver Park Board said they only “recently became aware” of the alarm installed at the station.
“Staff are contacting British Columbia Rapid Transit Company (BCRTC) to confirm that there is no impact to park users.”
The BCRTC did not respond to a request for comment from PressProgress prior to publication.
A person who works in the area who asked to remain unnamed says that they heard the device blaring at 4:30 PM on Tuesday afternoon.
“It was a high pitched, pulsing, repeating tone that rose in apparent volume (and) intensity as I approached the box that appeared to match the description of a mosquito alarm,” they told PressProgres.
“It was very uncomfortable to be around. Despite that, a few people were still dealing with the awful noise and gathering in the area because they had nowhere else to go. It was clearly audible from across Thornton park on the north side, but got louder as we walked across the park towards the skytrain station.”
Nina Taghaddosi, a registered social worker and anti-stigma campaigner with Pivot Legal Society, calls the noise device another attack on low-income people in the city.
“We’ve already seen that council is willing to street sweep people from public spaces, which people rely on when they have low levels of income and can’t afford housing,” Taghaddosi told PressProgress. “When they’re moved away from areas like Hastings and Main and the blocks surrounding it, where are they expected to go?”
“There’s policies enacted by the city that are really harmful to people, actively, and then there’s hostile architecture that’s used by private corporations and the city to displace people or actively harm them.”
Taghaddosi adds that a person’s social condition is not protected in the Human Rights Code in BC.
“There are rights protected when people are accessing a public service, and we would include parks in that, and you’re protected on many different grounds including age, disability, ethnic background—but you’re not protected based on your socioeconomic status or your level of income,” Taghaddosi added.
Beyond being annoying, the alarms have the potential to be harmful to people with auditory sensitivities or disabilities.
Hannah Facknitz, a disabled activist says that infrastructure like this has the potential to disrupt the lives of disabled people, some of whom are also unhoused.
“Chronic migraine, and other conditions that are affected by sound are not just pain, quite often they involve issues with your inner ear balance and perception issues,” Facknitz told PressProgress.
“We shouldn’t care about this because it hurts disabled people. We should care about this because it hurts everybody.”
Facknitz adds that designs like this make it difficult for everyone apart of the local community, including both disabled and unhoused people.
“The ability to find respite in this city is almost zero because of how actively we try to keep poor people from existing in any degree of comfort or in any degree of dignity or humanity,” Facknitz said.
“What that does is makes the city hostile to everybody.”
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