Safeway assaulting homeless people (and other neighbors) with classical music weapon

Originally published at: Safeway assaulting homeless people (and other neighbors) with classical music weapon | Boing Boing


A sledgehammer might help


I wonder if Safeway sold more earplugs after installing this weapon…


So that’s what those are; there’s one at my local food store and I thought it was just a camera for remote surveillance to make sure no one breaks into the cars in the lot of something. I had no idea that it could make noise and be a corporate asshole.


This may explain something that puzzled me. Recently at our local Home Depot a loudspeaker in the parking lot suddenly blares a “Welcome to Home Depot” recording which sounds less welcoming than threatening. I can’t figure out what triggers it. Cars go in and out all day, of course, so it wouldn’t be motion detection. I speculated it’s supposed to scare people off when the store is closed and somehow goes off accidentally during the day.

I should have known that there’s a company that specializes in homeless audio punishment devices. NIMBYism is a powerful revenue generator.


Many years ago I did work for a dealership. The had an in water showroom set up in some covered boat wells. I paid the pigeons well to poop on the boats so I could make more money.

They hired a bird deterrent company who put up motion activated speakers that played the sounds of pigeon predators whenever pigeons showed up.

About a week into it I stopped by to see how it was going, several pigeons were sitting on top of the speaker squawking back at the imaginary predators. They were also sitting on top of the big realistic plastic owls that was supposed to scare them off.

They ain’t so dumb.

The service didn’t last long.

If this showed up in my neighborhood and repeated, as in every 20 minutes, calls to the police and the city didn’t solve the problem I would figure out how disable it without damaging it. (I’m not fond of jail).

But my current neighbors would have destroyed it long before I tried proper channels.



More specifically, in the city of San Francisco, it is illegal to create or cause any noise greater than 5 decibels (dBA) above the ambient level in residential areas, and greater than 8 decibels (dBA) above the ambient level in commercial or industrial areas.5

Also, it is illegal to “use, operate, maintain, or permit to be played, used, or operated any radio or television receiving set, musical instrument, phonograph, juke box, broadcasting equipment, or other machine or device for the producing, reproducing, or amplification of sound or human voice in such manner as to produce raucous noises or in such manner so as to disturb the peace, quiet, and comfort of persons in the neighborhood or with volume louder than is necessary for convenient hearing for the person or persons for whom said machine, instrument, or device is operated.”6


Good lord, that’s awful. If lived in earshot of that thing, the urge to shut it down by any means necessary would be very strong. However with all the cameras, I suppose there’d be no way to do that without getting caught.


V For Vendetta GIF


It sounds like there are a lot of people affected by it. In addition to the mask suggestion, gather a posse. Not only will having a dozen or so people make it easier to destroy, it’ll make it clear that this was a community action and not a lone vandal.


If it weren’t so unbelievably difficult to perform a citizens arrest without accidentally breaking any laws that would likely be the best way to go about it (arresting store managers who fail to shut it down).

I wonder if a civil suit would be the next most effective thing, it effectively makes nearby properties basically unlivable, so Safeway should in theory be liable for the rent/mortage values during the period of the disturbance, plus any transport costs to alternate sleeping areas, plus any hotel fees, plus interest for anyone that can’t actually afford to pay that stuff, and any increase in transport costs to work…

That ought to add up pretty fast, esp as there isn’t going to be a arbitration clause for “people living near Safeway” that prevent them from filing that as a class action.

Not at all as satisfying as taking a baseball bat to the thing (and maybe whoever authorized it’s use…)


I was going to say - I can’t believe this thing lasted more than a couple days without being destroyed.
I’m a little disappointed…


Other devices like this exist, and surely there will be other sadistic managers, so there’s still some value in researching anti-nuisance defense.


In the UK some shopkeepers took to installing a device called the “mosquito” that emits a high-pitched whine teenagers can hear but older people can’t, the idea being those shopkeepers think all youth are shoplifters and need to be repelled. One decided it would be more humane to use classical music instead, but just as effective:


Some 7-11 stores have weaponised classical music against unhoused people and teenagers, but they kept the volume to a point where you could only hear it if you were hanging about the entrance. Antagonsing neighbours seems like an unwise choice on Safeway’s part.


I’d hope that, for something as egregious as this, going through legal channels would prove more damaging to the malefactors than some (probably insured) property damage; but if I were stuck within earshot I’d definitely be struggling to resist testing the theory that commonly available surveillance cameras are a lot better at gathering laser light than they are at not suffering sensor damage at fairly low power levels.


One would hope, but the OP says that people have reported it to the police and nothing has happened. Those poor people. Ugh.


In Spike Lee’s Inside Man, Clive Owen’s character disables a couple of surveillance cameras with paint curing lamps


So close, I was like is that the one i have been to but, nope it was on market street, thou the staff where super nice, and gave me a membership number and anitbiotic, I really dont react well to insect bites, thou the neosporean came in super handy last week in scotland, when i got bit 100 times by midgies, it may have been 25 and sunny, but my god they where out in force, if you went out side at the wrong time of the day!