Sound cannons target OccupyWallStreet

The rapidly expanding OccupyWallStreet (OWS) protests are spurring sales of non-lethal crowd dispersal equipment such as Long-Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD).

LRAD claims its controversial device offers law enforcement officials a louder option than a megaphone – as it is more benign than rubber bullets and tear gas for managing or dispersing large crowds.

”All of these events have helped bring interest to LRAD as new way to take care of these type of situations where they haven’t had them before,” LRAD spokesperson Robert Putnam told the Associated Press.

Putnam insisted LRAD was not a weapon, but rather, a long-range communication system for clearly broadcasting information, instructions and warnings. 

However, Putnam acknowledged that even the smallest LRAD (100X) emits as much as 137 decibels at 1 meter, which is louder than a jet takeoff at 100 meters, yet lower than the pain threshold of 140 decibels set by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“What would you rather have us do, [replay] the old 1964 routine with fire hoses and billy clubs?” Raymond DeMichiei, deputy director of the Pittsburgh Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, asked rhetorically.

“[Personally], I think it’s a lot more humane to make people uncomfortable because their ears hurt, and they leave.”

LRAD was developed for the US Navy in the aftermath of the 2000 bombing attack against the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen. It was originally envisioned as a device that would provide the military with an effective method of stopping small boats from approaching US warships.

Until 2009, the LRAD was primarily deployed in naval scenarios, including deterring pirates from raiding cruise ships.