Knightscope security robot range

Knightscope security robot vandalised while on patrol

Image credit: Knightscope

A security robot hired to discourage rough sleepers from setting up camp outside a non-profit’s offices has been vandalised by angry protestors.

The San Francisco branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) recently recruited the Knightscope security robot, reportedly to discourage homeless people sleeping near its office.

To perform its duties, the robot’s body was covered in SPCA brand-appropriate images of puppies and kittens.

Knightscope, which is based in San Francisco, allows companies to rent an autonomous security patrol robot for significantly less than the Californian minimum wage of $10.50/hr. Although the robots are not capable of performing all the tasks a human security guard can, they are equipped with a range of sensors which allow them to patrol an area and send alerts when they detect crimes or other dangers.

According to reports, the San Francisco SPCA hired a Knightscope K5 robot, nicknamed K9, to clear rough sleepers from the the pavement and car park outside its offices. This was confirmed by SPCA spokespeople, who stated that the shelter had been broken into, vandalised and burgled, and that staff members and volunteers had reported vandalism and harassment by homeless people camped on the pavements outside.

News of the robot’s responsibilities was met overwhelmingly with anger at the SPCA's perceived disregard towards the homeless population. Now, reports suggest that the robot has been vandalised. Jennifer Scarlett, co-president of the San Francisco SPCA, told the San Francisco Business Times that protesters had “put a tarp over it, knocked it over and put barbecue sauce on all the sensors”. A Twitter user commented that it had been smeared with faeces.

Knightscope has stated that its robot was not deployed to target homeless people, although according to both the SPCA and Knightscope, crime has dropped in the area following deployment of the robot.

According to reports, the local SPCA branch could be fined $1,000 per day for using the robot in the public area outside its headquarters. This follows the introduction of strict regulations on the deployment of autonomous robots in public areas by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

The incident is the latest in the misadventures of Knightscopes’ security robots; previously, its robots have reportedly run over a child’s foot in a shopping centre, fallen into a pool in an office lobby and been pushed over by an inebriated man.

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