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Sound-emitting devices in downtown Toronto parkette removed after complaints

Sound-emitting devices in downtown Toronto parkette removed after complaints
WATCH ABOVE: Managers of an office building near Yonge Street and Gerrard Street East installed the anti-loitering devices to target crime in the area, but removed the devices after social media pressure. Mark Carcasole reports.

It was a sound that could only be heard by kids and young adults, typically younger than 30. Though it sounded like silence to most above that age range, it was a sound that ignited a fire on social media.

Last Wednesday, residents near McGill Parkette in the Yonge Street and Gerrard Street East area began complaining on Reddit of a sonic oddity.

David Angelovich, who lives in a building across the street, is 34 and says he heard it. He described it as “kind of a high-pitched chirping noise.”

Seeing the Reddit posts, Angelovich went about scanning the parkette for the source. He made an audio spectrum recording that shows a clear high frequency spike in the 16 to 17 kilohertz range.

He also found the two electronic devices creating all the noise. One on the adjacent building at 415 Yonge St. and another on a smaller maintenance building between it and the parkette.

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Angelovich identified the caged-off boxes as Mosquito MK4 units, which are made by MST.

On its website, the manufacturer directs users to “either set the device to 17KHz to disperse groups of troublesome teenagers OR set it to 8 KHz to disperse people of any age from areas where loitering can be an issue.”

Building security told Angelovich that crime and loitering were problems in the parkette behind the building, and that’s why the devices were installed.

“I was fairly offended that a local corporate would take to policing a park on their own,” Angelovich told Global News.

“And we kind of pushed it from there.”

He posted several notes on the public notification board outside of 415 Yonge St. and said he continues to post new ones there almost daily because the posters are repeatedly torn off.

Local Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam is strongly against the sound devices. She said there are other ways to make the parkette safer. She suggested a number of improvements, including the removal of some fencing to provide more access and exit points and better lighting.

But the city doesn’t own the parkette; it leases it from building managers Artis REIT.

“We are encouraging them to actually give us permission to renovate the park at our cost, so the City of Toronto will pay for this,” Wong-Tam said.

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“They’ve told us no.”

She said the company told her it intends to break the lease in order to implement its own plans, which would see the parkette removed in favour of a private parking lot.

Wong-Tam said there’s reason to believe using these devices in a public parkette violates city bylaws. She wouldn’t rule out officials pursuing that avenue, but it appears she may not have to. Global News found no sign of the devices during a visit to the parkette.

An Artis REIT spokesperson confirmed to Global News in an email that the devices were removed last week.

“This is now a non-issue and we will not be making further comment,” the spokesperson wrote.

“That’s definitely a win for us,” Angelovich said.

“But the real win would definitely be getting the park renovated by the City.”