British Columbia

High-pitched alarm runs day and night in downtown Vancouver, annoys residents

"The experience can be painful for certain people. It can very much be a blunt instrument," says Rob De Luca, public safety director for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

'The experience can be painful for certain people,' says civil liberties director

Bradley Friesen says he was surprised to hear the noise was still going after he left home for 10 days. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

When Bradley Friesen takes his dog Mr. Bentley for a walk outside his Seymour Street condo, the pup's ears start to seize up.

"His ears are pinned back, he doesn't like walking this block at night," Friesen said.

The culprit: an ongoing, high-pitched beep that screeches through the street, day and night.

"He hates it … It's annoying my dog. It's just annoying to be in this neighbourhood."

Mr. Bentley doesn't like going for walks near the high-pitched noise, according to his owner. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Friesen says he first started hearing the noise in November, and was surprised to find the alarm still running after he returned from a 10-day trip.

On Thursday, the noise was still rippling through Seymour Street between Robson and Smithe.

A possible deterrent

The noise is coming from an alarm mounted inside the stairwell of a nearby parkade. 

Such devices, commonly known as Mosquito Alarms, emit high-frequency pitches meant to deter people from congregating in a specific area.

Listen to the sound heard near Seymour and Smithe streets

The controversial device generally targets young people, emitting frequencies that can only be heard by people aged 13 to 25. However, new models include sounds that can be heard by all ages.

CBC News reached out to the product's manufacturer for comment, but did not get a response.

"People use this area, and to have, essentially what I would called audio pigeon spikes for people — I think it's pretty disgusting," Friesen said. 

Other people walking down the street Thursday called it noise pollution, emphasizing their displeasure with the incessant pitch.

Bradley Friesen, pictured here walking his dog Mr. Bentley, claims an alarm has been going off on Seymour Street for days, and has complained to the City of Vancouver. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

'It hits all ears alike'

Mosquito alarms have drawn criticism from human rights advocates.

Rob De Luca, public safety director for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said the devices can be disruptive when used near public spaces, like a busy sidewalk.

"Broadly, these things can raise some concerns," said De Luca. "The experience can be painful for certain people. It can very much be a blunt instrument. It doesn't discriminate on people who are offending or not offending — it hits all ears alike."

The devices are legal in Canada. According to the City of Vancouver, complaints surrounding the ongoing noise have been forwarded to the Vancouver Police Department.

A spokesperson from the VPD told CBC News that the noise is being investigated.

Mosquito Alarms can be heard over 20 metres away from where they are mounted. According to the manufacturer, it takes 2-3 minutes for the sound to get annoying. (CBC)