LONDON – Baptists have passed a resolution condemning the use of an alarm that emits a high-pitched sound to disperse groups of potential troublemakers.
The sound emitted by the Mosquito alarm is extremely irritating to young people but inaudible to anyone older than 24.
The alarm is used widely by shopkeepers and retailers to stop youths from loitering outside their shops but critics have called for a ban in recent years on the grounds that the alarm targets young people indiscriminately.
Sarah Fleming, an 18-year-old member of Abingdon Baptist Church in Oxfordshire, delivered a passionate speech against the use of the Mosquito alarm at the Baptist Assembly in Bournemouth on Monday.
"Mosquito alarms are about discrimination – they specifically target one group in society," she said.
"Suppose a local shopkeeper invented a device to move away old people because they are slow, and got in the way of younger shoppers? Or a device to move away disabled people because he found them embarrassing? Or a device to move away black people just because they were black? We would be up in arms, and rightly so. So how can it be fair to target young people?"
She continued: "We should oppose them because they do not target crime, they target anyone under 25, including those who are law abiding, and toddlers and babies who cannot move away."
Fleming said that Mosquito alarms did nothing to address the causes of youth crime.
"In fact they make the problem worse," she said. "They are modified from devices invented to deal with rats. Using them on young people sends out a message: 'You are not welcome. We do not want you here. We will deal with you like we deal with vermin.'
"Put bluntly, if you treat young people like vermin, do not be surprised if they behave like vermin."
The Baptist Assembly – the joint Assembly of the Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB) and BMS World Mission – is now calling on the government to ban Mosquito alarms and asking local churches to work with other agencies and services to reduce youth crime and disorder.
The Baptist Assembly also resolved to call upon the government to give asylum seekers waiting longer than six months for a decision on their case the right to seek employment, which they are currently denied. They are also urging the government to end the detention of children.
The four-day Assembly was joined by Andy Duncan, chief executive of Channel 4 and Baptist church member in Croydon.
In a seminar on Sunday, he encouraged churches to embrace new technologies and media, particularly in their engagement with children and young people.
"The media world is changing very fast – especially for 5- to 10-year-olds and with the role of social networking websites," he said. "It is becoming really important that churches are media savvy, particularly in relating to young people."