OPINION: It's time to get rid of that pestilent mosquito in Garden Place.
I'm not sure who set it up, but I know whenever I'm near the 3D Pipes Screensaver Sculpture, the place that used to sell gelato, or the really nice sushi restaurant, I can hear the thing buzzing. It's a shrill, awful sound: it worms into your brain and hovers, much like the mosquito that comes into your room at night and you wish would come down from its invisible orbit somewhere near the ceiling and bite you just so you could have a decent go at swatting it. I'm pretty sure it's been set up to deter people from sitting on the steps of the building that houses a dentist and a couple of other things. Naturally, all the vagrants and young people avoid the spot.
Only people with functioning ears avoid the mosquito-infested zone. That's me, and at the age of 30 I'm fast escaping the hated category of "young person". Nearly everyone I know can hear it, from ages 15 to 50. All it means for me is I'm not going to spend my lunchtime dollars anywhere near it. The young people and vagrants the device is trying to deter simply aren't deterred by it.
Sure, they might hear it, but if I was a vagrant looking for a warm, sheltered place to sit I'm sure an annoying buzzing sound would be the last of my worries. And whoever thought this device would work on teenagers has never met a teenager.
gnoring the fact that teenagers are used to high-pitched buzzing noises - it's what passes for music these days, lol - nothing is more likely to inspire someone between the ages of 14-18 to lift the middle finger than to try and get them to move on from a public place where they have every right to be hanging out with their friends.
There's a website for these mosquito things. It's horrible. The language is Orwellian, the device dystopian. It's a nasty grey steel box. The very look makes me wish to find one and smash it.
Ugh. This is as bad as people who think that a good solution to rape is to have women carry whistles. It's not a solution to a safer city environment. It's a discriminatory, stupid, banal device, and would be so even if it worked, which it doesn't.
The good news is that their use has been successfully challenged - in 2010, the National Youth Rights Association in the US successfully had one removed from a metro station after complaining to the District of Colombia's human rights office. I'd encourage any young Hamilton person who feels they've been similarly hassled to contact the Human Rights Commission.
I wholly sympathise with the desire of Garden Place shopkeepers to remove the sources of anti-social behaviour away from their places of business, but engaging in anti-social behaviour themselves is not the way to do it.
There have been horrible problems for Garden Place businesses lately. I walk through most lunchtimes and while I don't feel like things have gotten significantly worse in recent years, I can see why people feel intimidated. There are a few spots where I wouldn't feel comfortable hanging around for any length of time. I feel terrible for poor Ramesh and Madhu Chand, who were allegedly abused and engaged in a scuffle when trying to remove an abusive bunch of loiterers from their Hindustan restaurant.
What might work? The only way forward I can see is to encourage more people into the city centre. Several businesses have called for more police presence in Garden Place and I can't see how that's a bad idea. Preventing abuse of retailers has got to be better than stepping in after the fact.
City Safe, Hamilton City Council's street team, seem to be doing a good job and HCC suggests that they're a reason that over the last few years, people have begun feeling safer in the city at night. More of a daytime presence in Garden Place might help matters also.
HCC has also been doing a great job with the likes of Summer in Garden Place. More like this, please.
The solution isn't creepy buzzing things, and it never will be. The business operating the mosquito should get rid of it, tomorrow. The only thing it's doing is making middle-class shoppers angry.
And you wouldn't like middle-class shoppers when they're angry.
Joshua Drummond is a Hamilton freelance writer and illustrator and mosquito assassin. His website is cakeburger.com.