5 Cruel Solutions to Stop Bad Behavior in Its Tracks
When we want to stop people from actions we dislike, we turn to a default solution: We call it a crime, and we threaten jail. Sometimes, this doesn’t work. Maybe we can’t realistically declare it a crime. Maybe the action is already a crime, and we have no way of catching the perpetrator. Maybe they weigh the risk and decide to go through with it anyway. That’s when authorities have to get really creative.
Swinging Concrete Balls Will Knock People Off Train Roofs
In some countries, so many people travel by rail that the train cars don’t have room for them all. People hang out of the open doorways, and sometimes, enterprising passengers will climb up and park themselves on the roof. In Indonesia, some of these train surfers skip paying for tickets, while others pay but still head there because there’s no room anywhere else. Still others head up because surfing’s plain fun.
You can pass laws against train surfing, but that won’t work, as how do you catch and arrest someone as acrobatic as that? So, Indonesia turned to other tricks. They set up paint guns to spray offenders, for later capture (the offenders destroyed the guns). They urged religious leaders to preach against train surfing (shockingly, this swayed no one). Finally, they installed swinging concrete balls, which train riders will slam into at high speeds, knocking them off the train and maybe killing them.
The balls are cartoonish, which is the point. They could achieve something similar by installing horizontal barriers slightly above the train at various points, much like the kind in front of tunnels and bridges that warn your car about the limited clearance. The balls, however, aim to be obvious and terrifying. The authorities don’t want to sweep off all the surfers; they want to warn them — but they’re willing to sweep them off if it comes to that.
The balls, however, did not immediately result in an end to surfing. Officials installed them too high, leaving enough room for surfers to safely zoom right under them.
Lights Highlight Acne to Humiliate Loitering Teens
Teenagers are the number one threat to a city’s peace, embracing strange fashions, purchasing outrageous phonograph records and engaging in other such activities that Britain describes as anti-social behavior. Anti-social behavior (stuff like loitering and humming — very different from what psychologists call antisocial behavior, which tends to be a lot more murdery) is not illegal. Authorities still want to crack down on it.
Enter pink lights. Pink street lights aim to calm the public. They also have the effect of highlighting acne (or “spots,” as they’re called in Britain).
Stick a few of these lights in public places, says the logic here, and teens would keep away, preserving the area from delinquency for a little longer. However, maybe this is a tactic for a bygone time. Between better medication and a wider use of cosmetics, acne may not be as big a deal among teens as it once was. If some kid with a switchblade whistling “Singing in the Rain” in front of your store has pimples, they’re probably cool with that.
Or We Can Scare Off Teens With Alarms Only They Can Hear
If exotic light doesn’t work, perhaps we can try exotic sound. Your ability to hear changes as you age. Long before you grow fully old and fully deaf, you lose the ability to hear higher frequencies. Sounds that a teenage hears easily may be inaudible to an adult or may sound like something entirely different.
The Mosquito — an invention originally from Britain but used in several American cities — broadcasts a blaring noise with a frequency of 17.5 kilohertz. If you’re above the age of 25, you’ll hear nothing, but much younger than that and it’ll torture you, especially when cranked up to the maximum output of over 100 decibels. This will deprive nearby business owners of all youthful customers, and may spark physical illness in autistic people, all of which is considered well worth it if it keeps kids from playing catch nearby.
About a minute into the following video, you’ll hear a demonstration of the Mosquito’s output:
At least, that’s allegedly a demonstration of the Mosquito’s output. We couldn’t hear a thing, so we don’t know for sure. For accuracy’s sake, we knocked on several doors and asked to borrow children, saying we wanted to hurt them, but no parents proved willing to lend us any test subjects.
Sweden Keeps Away Russian Subs by Calling Them Gay
In 2014, Russia was up to its tricks again, sending its subs secretively into the waters of Western Europe. This worried the Swedish military so much, they spent millions on surveilling the water to figure out exactly what was happening. A few million may not sound like much of a defense expenditure to you, but it was their biggest military operation in decades, since Sweden doesn’t involve itself in that many wars.
The following year, the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society figured they needed alternate means of keeping Russia back. They lowered into the water what they called the Singing Sailor Underwater Defense System. A neon sailor danced back and forth, and the sign broadcast a message, in Morse code: “This way if you are gay.”
This was not an anti-gay message but a pro-gay message, mocking Russia’s own anti-gay policies. The sign also said, “Welcome to Sweden — gay since 1944.”
You might say that Russia’s recent activities show that encounters with this sign did not exactly leave them chastised and defeated. However, they never did go and invade Sweden, did they? By that measure, the Singing Sailor has been fully effective.
Alcatraz Used Hot Water to Keep Prisoners from Escaping
All prisons offer an obvious deterrent against escaping: If we catch you escaping, we’ll extend your sentence. This has a limited effect on prospective escapees, whose whole plan involves moving beyond the reach of the law. Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary offered an additional barrier. The island is surrounded by San Francisco Bay, and if you jumped in there on your way to freedom, you might freeze and drown.
But what if prisoners didn’t mind the cold water? What if daily cold showers — standard in prisons everywhere — inured them to the cold, till they were able slide into the water and feel nothing but joy? Note that when we say “cold,” we mean that temperatures in the Bay hovered around 50 degrees, which some people can adapt themselves to just fine.
For this reason, Alcatraz took the unprecedented step of heating the water for prisoners. So long as prison showers kept them soft, they’d never feel comfortable in the open water. Sometimes, you must be cruel to be kind. Other times, you must be kind to be cruel.