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Robotics Hardware

Homemade Robot Patrols Atlanta Streets 324

Josh Fink brings news of an Atlanta resident who has created a remote control robot to scare off criminals during the night. Rufus Terrill, an engineer, uses it to patrol the streets and encourage drug dealers and other shady characters to move on. Local residents call it his "Robocop." From CNN: "It's a barbecue smoker mounted on a three-wheeled scooter, and armed with an infrared camera, spotlight, loudspeaker and aluminum water cannon that shoots a stream of icy water about 20 feet. Operated by remote control, the robot spotlights trespassers on property down the street from his bar, O'Terrill's. Using a walkie-talkie, Terrill belts out through the robot's loudspeaker, 'That's private property. You guys need to get out of here.'"
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Homemade Robot Patrols Atlanta Streets

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  • Type O (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Instine ( 963303 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @05:45PM (#22681328)
    That should be Tyrell not Terril
  • by reality-bytes ( 119275 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @05:47PM (#22681342) Homepage
    The problem with adding lights to the street is that it just allows the criminals to see what they are doing.
  • Or him... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eln ( 21727 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @05:49PM (#22681368)
    I read an article about it earlier where a homeless guy followed him back from the square and started joking with him about it. If this is a major money-making area for these drug dealers, it's only a matter of time before one of them follows him and shoots him. I like that he's trying to clean up the neighborhood, and the idea is novel, but I can certainly imagine someone getting a little stabby or shooty after getting sprayed with ice cold water while trying to conduct "business".
  • by randyest ( 589159 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @05:52PM (#22681422) Homepage

    Meredith has a security guard at the center who leaves in the early evening. "They know when the guard leaves," she says. "They know when the cleaning crew leaves and then here comes the drug dealers to prey on the homeless people."

    I think the issue is homeless people. They are being confused with the folks who prey on them and sell them drugs
    Right. The homeless people are confused. They actually think they are applying for jobs and/or educational classes, but they somehow get drugs instead! They were confused! The dealers force them to buy drugs, with confusion techniques!

    Drug pushers don't exist. No one has to push drugs -- they sell themselves.
  • by davecrusoe ( 861547 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @06:00PM (#22681528) Homepage
    It's quite neat that this guy has taken the time to build something to help keep the neighborhood "safer". But what's most interesting is that the "drug dealers" (etc) respond so strongly to the little, harmless robot; and that their response would probably be much more hostile toward police. In addition to a neat experiment in... safety... it's also a neat psychological study. --Dave
  • by spacepimp ( 664856 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @06:02PM (#22681540) Homepage
    Who assigned this guy the rights to go squirting anyone with water or for that matter verbally harassing them. My gut instinct is that the guy who built this wishes he was policeman and doesn't have the proverbial sac to be one. If the streets where he lives are so rampant with criminal activity I would suggest he follows legal measures to do remedy the situation. "Vigilante Justice" is a matter of ethics, and I cannot say I accept this man as my voice. Is it legal to sue a robot for harassment, or the tool that's hiding behind the remote control? What is next? can i build an eye in the sky helicopter to follow and video tape people I do not like, and spray them with urine or feces when they behave in manners i do not approve of?
  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @06:09PM (#22681624) Journal

    Talk tough behind a computer screen but when it comes to the real world /.ers are weenies.

    Normal people and this includes the homeless and drug dealers don't want a hassle.

    The simple fact is that it is terribly easy to setup a neighbourhood watch and get rid of trouble, it just moves to the next area were people don't want a hassle and are unwilling to keep their area safe.

    Where ever someone is creating trouble there is someone else who isn't doing anything about it.

    Ask yourselve what you would do, as a drugs dealer you rely on you being to dangerous to confront and to much hassle to call the police to go undisturbed, this robot breaks the rules. It doesn't have to be afraid and so it puts the dilemma in the drug dealers shoes, create a scene he wants even less then a normal citizen or just move on.

    I think it is an intresting idea, but most of slashdot will probably freak because of the camera and big brother idea's. It ain't a solution and sooner or later it will lead to trouble, but it is an intresting idea nonetheless. Would a CTV setup in a local area that can be seen by anyone in that area be an acceptable way to get a neighbourhood watch going? Or is you neighbour watching what you are doing the same as the state?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 07, 2008 @06:09PM (#22681636)
    I bet you wouldn't have the same opinion if you were living in a high-crime area where, as is quite obviously the case for this guy, the police are absolutely fucking useless.
  • by Cadallin ( 863437 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @06:10PM (#22681646)
    God, I'm getting so tired of the Whiny anti-smoking bitching. Especially outside. Get the fuck over it. These two points really piss me off. You don't like someone smoking near you outside? Move your lazy ass! And two, unless you are operating the only bar in town, you should abso-fucking-lutely have the right to make it a smoking establishment. Anybody who doesn't like it can go somewhere else.

    I don't even smoke, and that is not the point. I fervently believe people should have the right to smoke. It is 100% a personal liberty issue. Now, as for how it can be marketed and sold, I'm up for debate. I'd be fine with it being restricted to small scale growing for personal consumption, like marijuana is often produced in Medical Marijuana states, or Canada (Note that these places don't restrict it that way, its just most commonly produced that way.)

  • by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @06:14PM (#22681692)
    Saying "Get out of here, this is private property" is not harassment. Even if it is at a distance. The water cannon may be a bit over the line, but how do you get harassment out of the walkie-talkie part?

    As far as 'legal measures', the police cannot be everywhere, 24/7. You think the residents haven't called them before?
  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @06:34PM (#22681940) Homepage
    You know, I don't want things to become like the old west either, but this absurd over-pacifism is ridiculous. If someone comes on to my property to sell drugs, or some other illegal activity, and I yell at them - that's not illegal. If I shoot them with a water gun that isn't assault. It's that person being an ass, and me being an ass back. The difference is that their ass is on my property conducting an illegal activity, and they know it. So they leave because my charge of trespassing and drug sales is bigger than their charge of assault by a water pistol.

    There's nothing wrong with citizens taking these types of minor things into their own hands. I don't want a world where every time I step on someone's grass they call the police. The reason we are moving in that direction, as a society, is because a small small small number of people are so trigger happy (with real live guns) that even the minor everyday cases of someone protecting themselves runs the risk of becoming a life or death situation. So we all live in fear.

    The reality is that the police cannot be everywhere at once, and if someone has a safe way to protect themselves like this, then they should be allowed to do it. Yes, it is probably assault according to the letter of the law, but not according to the spirit of it.
  • by Stanistani ( 808333 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @06:36PM (#22681970) Homepage Journal
    Is it assault if I emit beta radiation?
  • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Friday March 07, 2008 @06:41PM (#22682052)

    If the streets where he lives are so rampant with criminal activity I would suggest he follows legal measures to do remedy the situation.

    I don't know where in Atlanta this guy lives, but the worst neighborhood in the city is English Avenue. I can't remember the statistics I read at the moment, but I think it had something on the order of 300 murders (let alone everything else) in 2006. In a single neighborhood.

    Now, you know how many cops patrol that area? Two. Two! That's not even enough to have even any officers in the area all the time! When it's that bad, exactly what legal measures do you suggest he follow?!

  • Re:Or him... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by netruner ( 588721 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @06:48PM (#22682148)
    That would require a minimal security procedure to mitigate. Pull the bot into a defensible area where he can observe someone following it before retrieval. Don't go out if someone was following it. Also, the bad guys aren't the only ones with guns (yet). Also the defender typically has a sizable advantage if he plays his cards right.

    If he wants to get away from the assault problem of the water cannon, he could install a security system siren and/or a tear gas cannister (or pepper spray, or skunk scent, etc). Set off a siren so loud it hurts and when they go after the bot, flood the area with tear gas (neither are going to hurt the bot). You are allowed to defend your property with use of force, and I doubt that the bums/dealers are willing to file a "disturbing the peace" report against the siren.

    I sincerely hope he is recording the video that the bot sends back.
  • Re:Or him... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BlueNoteMKVI ( 865618 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @07:07PM (#22682346) Homepage
    Do you really expect drug dealers and homeless people to go that far through the legal system? More likely they'll just kick it over and watch the wheels spin helplessly in the air.
  • by KillerCow ( 213458 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @07:18PM (#22682462)
    I'd aim for the camera myself.
  • by vic-traill ( 1038742 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @10:55PM (#22684198)

    Voiceover: Lydia Meridith runs the daycare centre ... Lydia: [ ... at night ... ] This whole square is enveloped with homeless people and drug dealers ...

    So, the bot-operator sits on the Board of the daycare which occupies part of the footprint in question. He doesn't own it. Homeless people are lumped in with drug dealers. He admits to firing the bot's water cannon at 'extremely stubborn' people.

    BTW, the 'bot is *not* autonomous as claimed in an earlier comment; the guy is pulling the switch.

    Where I come from (which is admittedly not Atlanta or anywhere near there, as indicated by the audio transcription above) firing a water cannon at someone is assault, hassling dope dealers setting up shop in your neighbourhood with a 'bot is really freaking cool, and treating the homeless the same as dope dealers (lifestyle and intention overlaps notwithstanding) is a recipe for escalating social dysfunction.

    I admire Mr. Terrill for taking a stand, and doing so with a geek gadget ups his score. I do not understand the lack of differentiation (in both the video report and this thread) between a homeless man and a Misery Merchant. How is it this is not even on the radar?

    I suspect I might be on the cusp of a hearty karma smackdown, but WTF?

  • by mollymoo ( 202721 ) * on Saturday March 08, 2008 @11:45PM (#22690374) Journal

    Drug pushers don't exist. No one has to push drugs -- they sell themselves

    That's what I thought till I received an offer, on the street, unsolicited, to try some crack. After a very brief conversation it became apparent the guy making the offer wasn't just some guy looking for someone to share a rock with, he was a crack dealer. I was approached by a prostitute (actually a girl promoting a brothel - the rapidly delivered "menu" was fascinating) that night too. I guess being out on your own at 4.30am in a dodgy area looking miserable[1] is the trick - I know from experience that three from four (in the same place) doesn't garner the same level of interest.

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