'Anti-loitering' device used at shopping centre banned

A FRASER Coast shopping centre has been banned from using an "anti-loitering" device, after it was argued the noise-emitting gadget discriminated against young people.

The "mosquito" device broadcasts a high frequency noise that can only be heard by people 25 years or younger, causing discomfort to ears sensitive enough to hear it.

The shopping centre installed the device about 10 years ago, in the hopes it would stop young people from sitting out the front of the centre's entrance.

The centre got rid of the gadget in April.

About two years ago, a young person who worked at the centre approached the Taylor Street Community Legal Service in Hervey Bay and told them they were affected by the high-pitched noise coming from the centre doors.

They claimed it was causing persistent headaches and discomfort.

Solicitor Melissa Seymour-Dearness spent the next two years fighting for the centre to turn the device off, saying it was discriminatory because it affected people of a certain age.

"People who most hear it are young people and the most vulnerable are babies who have the most sensitive hearing and there was no sign or indication at all for mothers that the device was in use," Ms Seymour-Dearness said.

"The other concern that occurred to me is that they could also have a particularly great impact with hearing aids and assistance dogs, they could be unsuspecting victims as well.

"This device is in breach of the Anti-Discrimination Act, possibly criminal assault, and investigations are on-going as to whether this is a dangerous good."

When Ms Seymour-Dearness asked the centre why they had installed the device, they told her police had recommended they install the tool to stop loitering and unwelcome behaviour.

"They didn't talk to me about criminal charges or criminal convictions against young people," she said.

"They didn't elaborate on what unwelcome behaviour meant."

A Queensland Police Service media spokesperson told the Chronicle police across the Wide Bay and Burnett District had regular conversations with local businesses about ways to address loitering.

"While the QPS does not specifically recommend the use of 'anti-loitering devices', it is one of many strategies that local businesses can employ," the spokesperson said.

The centre declined to comment on the matter when contacted by the Chronicle.

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