Crime fighting robots are finally here
February 26, 2008 9:45 AM   Subscribe

Many business owners have struggled with crime in their communities and the impact that can have on their business- but when the police have their hands full, sometimes your complaints just fall through the cracks. One Atlanta bar owner has taken matters into his own hands by building a crime-fighting vigilante robot.
posted by baphomet (70 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
They are here to protect you.
posted by Krrrlson at 9:48 AM on February 26, 2008


The headline says robot but the story says remote-control.
The headline says robot but the story says remote-control.
THE HEADLINE SAYS ROBOT BUT THE STORY SAYS REMOTE-CONTROL!
posted by DU at 9:51 AM on February 26, 2008 [5 favorites]


Terrill hasn't named his creation. The day care center operator, Lydia Meredith, lovingly calls it "robo-cop," a nod to the popular movie series about a half man, half machine police officer.

I was going to suggest calling it Murphy.
posted by JaredSeth at 9:53 AM on February 26, 2008


Awesomo.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:53 AM on February 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


With enough water-spraying robots, surely drug abuse and homelessness will become a thing of the past.

Now, if only I could think of some way to keep all of those damn teenagers off my lawn...
posted by burnmp3s at 9:53 AM on February 26, 2008


Somebody's gonna ram that remote control up his patootie, watch.
posted by cashman at 9:54 AM on February 26, 2008


Thank you, DU. This was disappointing. It's not a robot.
posted by agregoli at 9:54 AM on February 26, 2008


The headline says robot but the story says remote-control.

I hereby challenge that robot remotely controlled toy to a one on one cage match!! Oh. It is so on!
posted by tkchrist at 10:00 AM on February 26, 2008


Sorry to disappoint, but "crime-fighting remote controlled spotlight, water gun, and walkie-talkie mounted on a meat smoker affixed to a 3-wheeled scooter" isn't exactly thrilling and doesn't roll off the tongue well, either.
posted by baphomet at 10:00 AM on February 26, 2008


One Atlanta bar owner has taken matters into his own hands by building a crime-fighting vigilante robot harassing people hanging out in public who may or may not be drug dealers.

Standing on a nearby corner, he maneuvers the machine down the block, often to a daycare center where it accosts what Terrill says are drug dealers, vagrants and others who shouldn't be there.

oh, well if Terrill says so.

Terrill insists he's not a kook, that he's serious about using his robot to fight crime.

whew! thank god. you know they're not kooks when they say they're serious.
posted by shmegegge at 10:00 AM on February 26, 2008


I was hoping for a dalek.
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO ... GO HOME... BUT YOU CANNOT ... STAY HERE
posted by boo_radley at 10:04 AM on February 26, 2008 [10 favorites]


Commerce is our goal here at Terrell. 'More human than human' is our motto.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:05 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


No it's not a robot; it's better. We all saw what happened with ED-209.
posted by butterstick at 10:06 AM on February 26, 2008


Drop your weapon. you have 30 seconds to comply.

*drops weapon*

Drop your weapon. you have 25 seconds to comply.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:07 AM on February 26, 2008 [5 favorites]


I need one of these to keep my cats in line. The remote control car from Radio Shack doesn't instill the fear it once used to.
posted by slogger at 10:10 AM on February 26, 2008


I predict Terrill will rightfully end up in jail over this.
posted by item at 10:12 AM on February 26, 2008


Maybe the local sheriff can just deputize him. Worked for Batman.
posted by butterstick at 10:13 AM on February 26, 2008


Now guys, I'm all for hatin on reporters using words wrong (hack referring to bad witty ideas is my personal bugbear), but a quick glance at the multitude of definitions of "robot" clearly places Mr. Teen Rough CommandoBot squarely in definition #1: "A mechanical device that sometimes resembles a human and is capable of performing a variety of often complex human tasks on command or by being programmed in advance."

Even the etymology agrees: "robot itself comes from Czech robota, "servitude, forced labor," from rab, "slave." The Slavic root behind robota is orb-, from the Indo-European root *orbh-, referring to separation from one's group or passing out of one sphere of ownership into another. "

So according to some guys with degrees, your dishwasher, those $9 RC cars and the peanut butter maker at the Whole Foods are all robots. Welcome to the future.
posted by neustile at 10:14 AM on February 26, 2008


This is simultaneously full of sad and awesome. Sad because it probably won't go berserk at the board meeting and shoot everyone and awesome because IT FIGHTS CRIME!
posted by tommasz at 10:15 AM on February 26, 2008


While fighting crime, it cooks a mean smoked chicken.
posted by brain_drain at 10:17 AM on February 26, 2008


People hate cops that roust bums and drug-dealers.
Man builds robot to replace cops.
Man loves robots.
People hate robots that roust bums and drug-dealers.
Ergo, people must also love bums and drug-dealers.
Robots must kill all that do not love bums and drug-dealers.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:18 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Johnny #5 IS ALIVE!!!!!!!!!
posted by Mach5 at 10:19 AM on February 26, 2008


2. A machine or device that operates automatically or by remote control.

It most certainly is a robot, and brilliant.
posted by caddis at 10:21 AM on February 26, 2008


I have often seen a distinction made between "robot" and "autonomous robot" to cover this case.

Also, it's begging to be hacked. Robot rolls into the bar, starts spraying the proprietor while announcing "BAR'S CLOSED GO BUY SOME DRUGS ON THE CORNER."
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:23 AM on February 26, 2008 [6 favorites]


Well, it's not the GOOD kind of robot, although cool.
posted by agregoli at 10:24 AM on February 26, 2008


You know who else was not a kook?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:25 AM on February 26, 2008


No, I've been wracking my brain, but I honestly do not. Who?
posted by Naberius at 10:28 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


He mounted an old meat smoker atop a three-wheel scooter...

I'm predicting a tragic end facilitated by a horrific, but delicious, discovery.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:31 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


"It's not a fight against the homeless, it's a fight against crime," he said. "I'm just trying to run a business in a peaceful manner."

I was hoping he'd have a more kick-ass tagline, like "a Roomba is for cleaning carpets, my robot cleans the mean streets".

caddis : It most certainly is a robot, and brilliant.

What about the violation of "do no harm to humans?!?!"
posted by Challahtronix at 10:33 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Terrill insists he's not a kook, that he's serious about using his robot to fight crime.

With all due respect to the Dark Knight, people who take homemade gadgetry and its use to fight crime seriously meet my definition of kook.
posted by Tehanu at 10:35 AM on February 26, 2008


What about the violation of "do no harm to humans*?!?!"
*Unless they deserve harming.

You missed the fine print.
posted by spock at 10:36 AM on February 26, 2008


Flight Of The Conchords - The Humans Are Dead
posted by Mr_Zero at 10:36 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ok, come on. Show of hand... How many people thought it might be fun to steal the "robot"...

I know I'm not the only one.
posted by quin at 10:42 AM on February 26, 2008


Yeah, but wait until this Shover robot comes up against the Pusher robot.

Pak chooie unf. Pak chooie unf.

posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:42 AM on February 26, 2008


THE ROBOT DOES NOT SAY "YES" IT ONLY SAYS "AFFIRMATIVE"
posted by brain_drain at 10:43 AM on February 26, 2008


I'm predicting a tragic end facilitated by a horrific, but delicious, discovery.

SOYLENT Q IS WINOS!!!
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:45 AM on February 26, 2008


give me a minute with a baseball bat and some steel toed shoes and i'll take that over-glorified meat smoker out for good

damn, the bums in atlanta really suck
posted by pyramid termite at 10:50 AM on February 26, 2008


Ok, come on. Show of hand... How many people thought it might be fun to steal the "robot"...

I know I'm not the only one.


I thought it would be funny if people took a dump in it.
posted by Mr_Zero at 10:54 AM on February 26, 2008


better yet, a few bungee cords and a trailer hitch - let's try roborentacop out on the freeway at 75 mph!
posted by pyramid termite at 10:55 AM on February 26, 2008


heh heh. my "robotic" F150 custom fullsize would love to meet his "robotic" police officer.
I do not predict a draw.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:01 AM on February 26, 2008


pt, I think we're thinking the same thoughts.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:02 AM on February 26, 2008


give me a minute with a baseball bat and some steel toed shoes and i'll take that over-glorified meat smoker out for good

damn, the bums in atlanta really suck


Yea, they ain't been getting their vitamins like they should. Eat Up Bums! You gotta stay fit.
posted by Rubbstone at 11:08 AM on February 26, 2008


roborentacop vs westnedge hill - who wins?

and give me a garden hose and last week's weather and i'll make a pretty little ice sculpture out of roboboy - especially once he got stuck in the snow - "shovel me out or feel my watercannon wrath" wouldn't cut it

there are so many ways to screw with this thing, i really have to wonder if this is some kind of hoax, because it's only a matter of time before this thing get broken otherwise
posted by pyramid termite at 11:08 AM on February 26, 2008


There are few phrases I’ve encountered that have as much potential to generate chaos and trouble than: “But instead of calling the police...”

But yeah, spraying homeless folks with water in the winter, swell.
Haw haw haw. Not as fun as torching them with a gas can though, is it?
But it’s ok, see, ‘cause they’re not people, they’re bums...plus they use drugs! Drugs are evil!
They’re committing crimes!
Perfectly ok to assault someone under those circumstances.
“It's not a fight against the homeless, it's a fight against crime”
Sure thing buddy. Oh, wait, the police say spraying water on people constitutes assault.
Well, let’s say I come over and put you in a lateral vascular neck restraint (RNC for y’all BJJers) to sort of hold you and stop you, or take you to my office about 60 feet under water...oh, wait, you’re not black are ya? Black folks have different boyancies and weaker necks, amirite?
(Actually, right now I’m injured so, just talking a big game)

But I don’t know why this pisses me right off. Maybe it’s the hypocracy of running off “antisocial” drug dealers when your business is selling alcohol.
...No, that just makes the guy a jerk.
(Plus: “O'Terrills,” Christ what a jagoff.)

What pisses me off is the water cannon. They’re dealing drugs? Put them on camera. Film them and turn the footage over the police, or the media. Plaster their pictures up all over the neighborhood. Shine a bright light on them while they’re making a deal. That kind of robot sounds great to me. Humans are better though. Neighborhood watch? Hello?

But I don’t think I’m misreading the subtext here: that the robot is being used on homeless folks. Why the hell else call it “bum-bot”?

There was a story about this in the Atlanta Business Chronicle - (July 20, 2007) (I can’t link it for some damned reason this computer is all crazy ass since I moved) according to the piece: “Bob Cramer, task force chairman and CEO of Atlanta-based Internet company ThePort Network Inc., calls recent attacks on the shelter a "concentrated and orchestrated" effort to discredit the organization. In addition, the city is preventing $500,000 in state and federal funding from going to the task force, he says, and other attacks have included politicians leaking an erroneous story to the media about a lice infestation. He also says it has been increasingly difficult to deal with the city on normal matters.”

Rufus Terrill, blames(ed?) Anita Beaty, director of the task force on homelessness: “He calls her management philosophy "unlimited love" and says she has been a bad neighbor by allowing the block to become so overrun. As a result, he says, the pub has suffered a loss of business.
"They are helping people maintain their lifestyles, making them losers," Terrill said. "If they really want to help people, they should have a shelter to help people get on the path of success in life."”

Meanwhile representatives from the taskforce on homelessness visited the CAN (Central Atlanta Neighbors) and stated funds received from city grant would be used for their hotline, transportation, outreach programs geared towards helping people where they are and not bringing them into city.

Our buddy Rufus Terrill who is the VP and treasurer of CAN?
Voted against giving the homeless shelter more funding (’cause that would make them losers, apparently...although, y’know he’s gotta back up his wife, amirite?)

Yeah. Yeah, maybe that’s where all my angst comes from. That and then squirting those same people who basically live outside with water in cold weather.
Boy, if that’s not rehab motivation...
posted by Smedleyman at 11:15 AM on February 26, 2008 [10 favorites]


Fun as this all sounds, Mr. Terrill is regularly assaulting these people. Granted the harm is small and the results, well, hilarious, but this is an exercise of police power which can only be legally exercised by the police. This man is in the headlines cause he made a contraption, but imagine someone attaching a hose to the fire hydrant across from the local falafel joint and spraying down all the patrons because the people are obviously terrorists. Such an act would be roundly condemned as reactionary, bigoted, and uncivil by all--especially MeFites--but somehow doing it to poor people using a robot makes it cool and funny. Apparently it's okay to discriminate based on class, just not on race or religious grounds.

The locals call it the "bum-bot" for a reason. Everyone knows what it's for: harassing people who are so down on their luck that they have to patronize places like the nearby shelter. The homeless may be something of an aesthetic problem, but they are allowed to exist, and they have to do that somewhere. Arguing that they can go somewhere else doesn't really work, because the people somewhere else will just send 'em back. This kind of harassment is understandable but discriminatory and reprehensible. True, the locals don't like hordes of people congregating on their doorsteps, but that's just too damn bad. Call the cops or deal with it, but don't take the law into your own hands.
posted by valkyryn at 11:16 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


But does it have a kill-a-ma-jig?
posted by blue_beetle at 11:21 AM on February 26, 2008


Also, that's not a water cannon. Those are TEARS. It's weeping for humanity.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:24 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Smedleyman, I say this in all seriousness. You need to draft up a scary and impecabbly researched letter to the atlanta journal-constitution. or some better news source. that is one helluva comment.
posted by shmegegge at 11:25 AM on February 26, 2008


It is not a "water Cannon" it is a Super Soaker. Think less MLK, more Bozo. If he has permission from the land owner to demand they leave and they refuse, he isn't assaulting them by attacking them with non-lethal force. The Cop apparently hasn't read Georgia Law very carefully.
posted by Megafly at 11:29 AM on February 26, 2008


I liked the idea at first, but why is there a water cannon instead of a camera? If that thing squirted water on me, I'd tip it the fuck over. What is he gonna do, run over and stop me? Dude, I just kicked your robot's ass, what the fuck you think you can do to me?
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:32 AM on February 26, 2008


Please, please, please, Mr. Terrill, roll that puppy out here on the streets of Baltimore. Chase away the drug dealers. I would pay real money to see that.

Sheeeeeeeeeeeee-it
posted by sidereal at 11:40 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


So, it's basically drunks vs. homeless. Let's cut out the robot and get to Bumfight 2008!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:46 AM on February 26, 2008


I was going to suggest calling it Murphy.

You mean for Murphy's law? Because I think the orgional cop's name in robocop was actually Officer Murphy. So... You need to be more specific.
posted by delmoi at 11:51 AM on February 26, 2008


I liked the idea at first, but why is there a water cannon instead of a camera? If that thing squirted water on me, I'd tip it the fuck over. What is he gonna do, run over and stop me? Dude, I just kicked your robot's ass, what the fuck you think you can do to me?

Well, it's 300 pounds.

But yeah, it would be super easy to take this thing over, I bet. I doubt the guy used cryptographic commands so you could probably overpower the signal and sent the robot back to the bar to squirt the place up. If it wasn't possible to overpower the signal, you could jam it and steal the robot, and reprogram it.

And that would be totally [cyber]punkrock.
posted by delmoi at 11:58 AM on February 26, 2008


Okay fine then, call it Murph.
posted by Big_B at 12:03 PM on February 26, 2008


Actually, this is an assault. Under Georgia law, as is the case in most states, an assault is any unlawful touching or offensive contact, no matter how minimal. This is strongly rooted in the fundamental common law principle of the inviolability of persons. "Unlawful touching" includes offensive touching which proceeds from anger or rudeness.
See OCGA § 51-1-14 as interpreted and applied in Darnell v. Houston County Bd. of Educ., 506 S.E.385, 388 (Ga. 1998).

That being said, Megafly is more or less correct: landowners are permitted to threaten and use physical force to prevent or terminate trespass on their property. Georgia's "make my day" law can be found in OCGA § 16-3-24 (Use of force in defense of property other than a habitation).

Thing is, all the "bums" have to do is step onto the sidewalk or the street and they're no longer trespassing. In those circumstances, it probably would be an assault to hose them down.
posted by valkyryn at 12:32 PM on February 26, 2008


Legally you're right, but as a practical matter a local jury would find this guy guilty only of being awesome.
posted by brain_drain at 12:42 PM on February 26, 2008


It's a living.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 12:44 PM on February 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


EPONY... oh, that was too easy.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:52 PM on February 26, 2008


HotBotlanta?
posted by uncleozzy at 12:57 PM on February 26, 2008


The low in Atlanta is 36 F tonight. Looks like a nice wind too.Wet yourself down with a super soaker and go sleep under a bridge out there (or try to without getting rousted) and afterwards we can debate this as a viable use of force and how awesome a dude this guy is.
--------
“You know who else was not a kook?”
&
“No, I've been wracking my brain, but I honestly do not. Who?”
Bob from accounting. He’s not a kook.

Bob studied Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University, and took advanced studies at the University of Kentucky. He spent 13 years with Adams & Westlake as Director of Engineering, and 23 years at Excel Industries in Engineering Management. (He retired in August of 1999.)

Bob's wife, Karin, is well known by many as the Program Director of Marketing & Events for the Elkhart Parks & Recreation Department. They have two adult children, Erick and Rachel. Bob enjoys golf, bowling and traveling.

weapons-grade pandemonium is right, no way is Bob a kook, man.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:29 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd never really thought of it until Smedleyman's comment but that shelter really is right in the middle of the city and fronts on Peachtree Street too. Yeah, I imagine a lot of people would like to see it go away.
posted by GalaxieFiveHundred at 2:53 PM on February 26, 2008


Smedleyman- Come on now, do you really think anybody is getting completely soaked by this thing? Look at the photo, the jet stream on that thing is tiny. And just how accurate do you think a guy with a remote controlled robot is going to be, anyway?

Combined with the fact that the guy on the other end of the soaker is probably going to be booking his ass off, I'd say you're being a tad bit hyperbolic. I don't think it's exactly nice but you're making it seem like these people are going to be frozen solid in the morning, when in fact they'd get more water on their clothes falling in a puddle. Being confronted by this thing would probably put less moisture on your clothes than walking around a slushy city street for a few hours.
posted by baphomet at 3:10 PM on February 26, 2008


Bum washer, Terrill's right hand [man].

Instead of doing something for the destitute and drug addicted in the community, the police obviously no longer are responding to another call from Terrill, this is his solution¿
Wheel the robocop to the donut store when you call in another loiterer, Terrill. Ya hoser.

Real upstanding citizen. Now sit down, you're sued.

Where are the college pranksters to send the dirty 'robot' through the car wash and Terrill too while they're at it.


pyramid termite"better yet, a few bungee cords and a trailer hitch - let's try roborentacop out on the freeway at 75 mph!"

Beautiful,
Reminds me of a First Nation joke I heard...

An Elder First Nation was riding his bicycle back to the Reserve from town, quite a distance away. Tired, he decided to hitch hike. A small car loaded to the gills with gear, stopped to offer a ride. The Elder noticed there really wasn't any room for him and his bike, but the driver had a solution. Grab this rope and I'll tow you. The Elder agreed, sounded like a good plan.
The tow started off well, nice and smooth like. But soon, the car started picking up speed. 25mph, 30mph, soon the Elder was being towed at 75 mph./ The Elder was trying to get the attention of the driver to ease up the speed a bit, but was concentrating on holding on, thinking the driver may have forgotten about him.
A state trooper was under a bridge when he noticed a speeding car on the overpass and was radioing up ahead to another squad car to catch the speeder. "Bob, I've got a speeder here, but you won't believe this, there's a bicyclist who's passing him./"
[Courtesy of Aboriginal Voices Radio]


A round of donuts for this community, yo./
posted by alicesshoe at 3:26 PM on February 26, 2008


This is interesting.

If you are walking down the street, and see some guy yelling at hobos and spraying them with a supersoaker, he is just a regular asshole. But if he uses a 'robot', then it's not obviously assholish.

What is the lower limit on 'robotness'? Does a sock full of computer chips, nuts and bolts count? What if I remote control it with a short piece of rope? I am sure some people would like to use one to enforce their right to stand on the sidewalk.
posted by Dr. Curare at 3:42 PM on February 26, 2008


Dr. Curare - well said.

“I'd say you're being a tad bit hyperbolic. I don't think it's exactly nice but you're making it seem like these people are going to be frozen solid in the morning”

I’m emotional about the subject. So it’s coloring my reason. So, yeah, fair enough.

But what is basic human dignity worth?
(All the bleeding hearts on metafilter and it’s the conservative defending this point?)

Consider - they’re sleeping/ sitting/ etc in this location - why?

Well, from what we know of the homeless, they tend to, when not in libraries or in other public spaces, look for warm spots in which to congregate while they wait for the shelter to open.
Doubtful they’d hang out on flat open ground right in the way of the wind just to piss this guy off.
So you pick out a spot to sit and rest and this robot drives over and blares at you and starts pissing on you.
Oh, you *know* that’s just water do you? Not if you’ve been on the street for years and had everything from dogs sicced on you to random beatings and muggings by everyone from low lifes to sadistic frat boys (but I’m being redundant there).

So ok, no. It’s not the water getting them wet. But he is shooing them out of whatever wind break they’ve chosen that’s near the shelter. They’re not going to be comfortable. And ok, they don’t have a right to be on someone’s property, but they can be on the sidewalk. And for the most part cops, much as they’re maligned in certain quarters, know this and tend to cut them a break if they’re out of the way, around a corner in an alley or something just keeping warm.

But, most importantly, they wouldn’t even be there if this jagoff and his asshole friends hadn’t denied the shelter funding for transportation and helping people in satellite locations instead of bringing them downtown (so assholes can have fun humiliating them with fucking robots).

I’m fine with neighborhood watch, private security, surveillance cameras, whatever. You want someone off your property you’ve got a right to take them off and the police should help. There are a number of methods to do that. Most of them involve working with the community. That doesn’t seem like this guys M.O.

This is irresponsible behavior and it humiliates and causes distress to people who already have a lot of distress in their lives and have absolutely nowhere else to go (otherwise they’d be there) and people treat this guy like he’s some kind of hero.

Allow me to state, and without hyperbole and equivocation, that I am aquainted with some homeless folks and were this to happen to them while I was in the neighborhood I would find this guy and stick his robot right up his ass. And I carry stuff a bit more potent than a super soaker.

I’d give odds that the cops would drag their feet answering that call too.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:34 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


(incidentally the “bleeding hearts” comment - also hyperbole. But y’know, compassion for all sorts of folks, but suddenly - there’s a robot involved - all bets are off. ‘Course, if any topic invites jokes, this’d be one.)
posted by Smedleyman at 4:38 PM on February 26, 2008


on reconsideration, a blanket to put over the supersoaker and the camera, a can of lighter fluid and a match would seem much more effective

roborentacop must DIE
posted by pyramid termite at 8:32 PM on February 26, 2008


Who will police the robots?
posted by Nattie at 11:54 PM on February 26, 2008


Boffin warns of terrorist robots
posted by russilwvong at 11:13 PM on February 27, 2008


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