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Threat of Pirate Invasions in Vancouver Quelled Just in Time for Winter Games!

The Vancouver Police Department now has a new toy originally developed as a way to disperse pirates, a problem most Vancouverites were probably not aware they were suffering from. My regular conversation with my barber does not normally start with, “Well, Lou, what about that pirate problem?”

The Long Range Acoustic Device, LRAD 500X, shoots sound in a beam and has a feature where it can hammer out a pulse of up to 150 decibels, annoying the bejeezus out of small craft attempting to board the HMS All You Can Eat. The pain threshold is about 130 decibels, but anything over 90 can damage a persons hearing.

But it's also a powerful, uni-directional speaker, so approaching vessels can be warned verbally at a good distance, and it's for the speaker capabilities that the VPD want us to believe is the sole reason they'll use it, and not for crowd control at the Olympics - “who us? It's just a coincidence” - they've suggested, though they're probably aware of how successfully it was used to chase away crowds at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh.

As people gather in protest at the Olympics, the police will use it to say “Hey you kids, get away from that thing!” Or some similar message. And the LRAD is Ipod-ready, so presumably they can play selections from K-tels 'Muzak for the Capitalistically Annoyed” when they're in between announcements.

But if it really is just for its public address capabilities, there are much better, cheaper options out there. For starters, they might have consulted with the organizers of the Gay Pride Parade, because I can hear “It's Raining Men” 10 blocks before the gyrating g-stringed gentlemen reach my retinas.

Or, should they choose not to consult the gay community on matters of military grade hardware, a simple Google search brings up the Sound Commander 3500: “clear voice audio and warnings, with full 360° coverage, encompassing a full square mile.” Sounds to me like it beats the hell out of the LRAD as a PA system. The LRAD is US$30,000 new, but the VPD bought theirs used for $17,000. Although, when asked at the news conference where it was unveiled, they couldn't say from whom, or if the owner was able to provide the manual. Sounds to me like they're embarrassed to admit they got it off Ebay. I seem to recall the post: “Only used at night in Fallujah.”

The Sound Commander 3500, on the other hand, is $15,850 brand new, without a coupon.

Which brings up my next question – can I get a job at the VPD as a purchaser? Because I'm sure I can do better than whoever's doing it now. Unless, of course, the Police really do want it for its ear-drum bursting capabilities, which can't be true, since they told us that's not why they bought it. They even promised they've put a sticky note above the switch that turns on the “that was annoying” button, which says: “In case of protesters, do not use.”

I mean, the police wouldn't lie to me...would they?

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