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Robots Are Being Used To Shoo Away Homeless People In San Francisco (qz.com) 422

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: San Francisco's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) has been ordered by the city to stop using a robot to patrol the sidewalks outside its office, the San Francisco Business Times reported Dec. 8. The robot, produced by Silicon Valley startup Knightscope, was used to ensure that homeless people didn't set up camps outside of the nonprofit's office. It autonomously patrols a set area using a combination of Lidar and other sensors, and can alert security services of potentially criminal activity.

In a particularly dystopian move, it seems that the San Francisco SPCA adorned the robot it was renting with stickers of cute kittens and puppies, according to Business Insider, as it was used to shoo away the homeless from near its office. San Francisco recently voted to cut down on the number of robots that roam the streets of the city, which has seen an influx of small delivery robots in recent years. The city said it would issue the SPCA a fine of $1,000 per day for illegally operating on a public right-of-way if it continued to use the security robot outside its premises, the San Francisco Business Times said.

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Robots Are Being Used To Shoo Away Homeless People In San Francisco

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  • Humans! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Zorro ( 15797 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @07:12PM (#55734967)

    EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE!

    • I was thinking of something more like this [youtube.com]...

      • Funny, IMHO it looks more like this one [nocookie.net].

        • Re:Humans! (Score:4, Insightful)

          by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @09:35PM (#55735689) Homepage

          I was thinking SPCA https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org], cough, cough, people are animals too. I wonder it they shoo away injured dogs, or have robots chase lost kittens, it's like seriously dude, check yourself, what the fuck. What you do, is guide them to the right organisations to provide them assistance, you do not treat them worse than stray dogs or cats. Only fucking America.

          • They already know that every dollar that you donate to the SPCA is money that you're not using to help your fellow man. Something tells me they like all other animals more than people.

      • Re:Humans! (Score:5, Informative)

        by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@w[ ]d3.net ['orl' in gap]> on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @10:47PM (#55735953) Homepage Journal

        They have been doing something like this with kids for years in the UK. Instead of robots they have speakers outside the building that play classical music all day. The cool kids don't want to hang around asking people to buy them booze any more.

        Of course, all it does is displace the problem.

        • There's a parking garage close to where I live, and they play march music 24/7, to deter homeless people from sleeping there. It is rather surreal pulling in to park with the Liberty Bell March going at full tilt.

        • Re:Humans! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Quarters ( 18322 ) on Thursday December 14, 2017 @06:23AM (#55736977)

          There is no equivalency between displacing kids looking for alcohol and a supposedly compassionate organization buying a robot to (quite literally) inhumanely drive off people whom society has failed.

          • There is no equivalency between displacing kids looking for alcohol and a supposedly compassionate organization buying a robot to (quite literally) inhumanely drive off people whom society has failed.

            What is the problem with trying to drive bums off and away from your place of business.

            Having a bunch of bums begging, drugging drinking and passing out in front of your place of business, is bad for business and often unsafe for your employees and customers.

          • by e r ( 2847683 )

            drive off people whom society has failed

            Living on the street without a home or a job? Here's some free advice:
            1. Get a job. Any job. Minimum wage works just fine. All you need is a couple hundred bucks a month-- that's more than you were making when you didn't have a job isn't it? The harder you work at this job, the more overtime hours you put in, the faster you'll get out of poverty. If it were me I'd pick a job that would allow me to really shine through sheer work ethic. Fast-food is perfect for this because the competition are all teenagers

            • Good luck getting that job with no address, no proof of immigration status, and you are disabled, mentally ill, addicted to a substance, or you have kids you have to take care of during the day with no help.
              You are just victim blaming here, and the real problem is that we have created a culture where homelessness is acceptable when there are some very real structural steps we could take as a society to fix these problems.
    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      Quick! Hide behind the discarded sofa!

  • Sadly, (Score:2, Insightful)

    This is probably just the beginning.
    • There's homeless hackers who need robot parts, too. Won't someone think of the homeless hackers?

    • Re:Sadly, (Score:4, Funny)

      by David_Hart ( 1184661 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @07:21PM (#55735015)

      This is probably just the beginning.

      Next step is to create a robot to shew away robots...

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        This is probably just the beginning.

        Next step is to create a robot to shew away robots...

        I bet you could hire a homeless person on the cheap.

    • Think of it this way, sure it's dystopian, but it's cool as fuck dystopian! I mean if society is going to go to shit before we all get wiped out at least appreciate it's going to be cyberpunk af while it's happening before the robots finally come for us all.
    • Re:Sadly, (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @08:45PM (#55735467)

      Let's try to cut through the hyperventilating and click-bait headlines a bit, shall we?

      First, keep in mind that the SPCA complex takes up an entire city block, and that they were having a real issue with safety and crime on their property. Prior to this, SPCA employees were literally not able to safely use some of the sidewalks due to discarded needles, obstructions, and so on.

      Second, the robots are set to detect any illegal trespassing or activity, and simply report it to human security personnel. It's not like the robots have mounted tazers that drive the homeless out, running for their lives. In fact, people have vandalized the robots by tipping it over, covering its sensors with BBQ sauce or feces, etc. These robots are completely harmless, and in fact, are downright defenseless.

      City Hall is great at lecturing others to be tolerant and risk their own safety while they can just nudge the police commissioner to quietly push homeless toward someplace where they don't have to look at them. I mean, we can't have homeless tents blocking off City Hall, right?

      • It's not like the robots have mounted tazers that drive the homeless out, running for their lives.

        Yet.

  • I'm gonna flood the place with homeless robots to counter.

  • Mr. Robot, meet Mr. Baseball Bat!

  • by techno-vampire ( 666512 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @07:21PM (#55735013) Homepage
    I find it remarkably hypocritical that the SPCA of all organizations is chasing homeless people away from their local headquarters. Don't they realize that people are animals too, and deserving of at least the same caring and consideration that they'd give to homeless cats or dogs? Do they think that horses and cattle are deserving of their attentions but homeless humans aren't?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @07:23PM (#55735025)

      To be fair, if spayed and neutered people this would be less of a problem.

    • Are you suggesting that they keep stray humans in cages and try to get other humans to agree to care for them, until they run out of space in the cages and then euthanize them?

      • Well, if we're not going to fund proper mental health care for them, that'd be more compassionate than leaving them to slowly starve or freeze to death while assaulting each other and engaging in substance abuse.

        I think it's more important to spay and neuter the adult population first, though.

    • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @07:35PM (#55735099) Homepage Journal

      Do they think that horses and cattle are deserving of their attentions but homeless humans aren't?

      In short, yes, and they are part of a whole industry based around that idea. Humans enslave "lesser" animals and use them to enhance their sense of well-being in lieu of spending their time, energy, affection and even money on their fellow humans — who desperately need their help. Then they become more withdrawn, and less interested in engaging with other humans... The SPCA has to protect the idea that pets are more valuable than humans, or else humans might start spending their money on other humans instead of on their pets, and then the SPCA might cease to exist. All bureaucracies exist first and foremost (if not at first, then eventually) to self-perpetuate.

    • by rogoshen1 ( 2922505 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @07:37PM (#55735107)

      Oh for fucks sake.

      (The below are generalizations, they tend to be true. I don't want to hear about an anecdote regarding noble Prince Hobo who'd never stoop to this kind of behavior.)

      They leave their trash everywhere
      They pester people going in and out for change (sometimes pretty fucking aggressively)
      They absolutely deter people from going into a business

      Even a non-profit like the SPCA should have the right to keep their entrance as inviting and usable as possible. Stow the virtue signaling outrage. If it was *your* office building, you'd more than likely sing a different tune.

      Besides, a stray dog or cat did NOT CHOOSE that lifestyle.

      • by avandesande ( 143899 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @07:41PM (#55735137) Journal
        Apparently they crap in the street and spread disease too- but this seems like more of a societal problem than the SPCA's
      • Stow the virtue signaling outrage.

        I'm a retired 'Nam vet, 30% disabled, all Service Connected. My cat and my sister's dog are both rescued from the local Animal Shelter. And, I've seen the problems the homeless can cause by squatting in a neighborhood, and they're not pretty. However, using robots to chase them away isn't the answer, because it just leads to people smashing the robots to defend whatever little speck of space they're trying to use to sleep, that leads to the police coming in and it jus
    • I find it bizarre that SPCA has funds for homeless-shooing robots.
  • Have your way with me mods, I've got karma to burn!

    The homeless population in San Fran is a massive problem. I've had my car's window smashed three times over the course of four years for trivial crap i've left in my car. Seriously, they really think that my FM transmitter and 75 cents are worth something? And this is in Portrero FFS.

    You consistently see these animals constantly shooting up, leaving needles everywhere, pissing in the street, and hassling you for money. They're a blight and the city's permis

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

      The homeless population in San Fran is a massive problem. I've had my car's window smashed three times over the course of four years for trivial crap i've left in my car. Seriously, they really think that my FM transmitter and 75 cents are worth something? And this is in Portrero FFS.

      So what? I lived in Bernal Heights and my whole car got stolen. You know why? Because no part of San Francisco is far from a ghetto. You know why that is? Because our whole society is sick from stem to stern. We get more satisfaction out of blowing people off than helping them. We've learned to be happy when we make people make a frowny face, instead of a smile.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Listen, buddy: If someone is legitimately breaking the law, then sure, let's arrest them and give them due process. But demonizing all of the homeless, because of some bad actors? That's just being a jerk. Are you aware that the majority of the homeless don't want to be? Or are suffering from mental illness of some sort? Or are drug addicts, and since there's no mechanism to get them off drugs, they're stuck in an endless downward spiral? What about honorably discharged veterens who are homeless? They serve
    • by fafalone ( 633739 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @09:18PM (#55735611)
      So your response to Petty crimes is a death sentence? Has it occurred to you that maybe you're part of why society is so fucked up in the first place?
    • The homeless population in San Fran is a massive problem. I've had my car's window smashed three times over the course of four years for trivial crap i've

      Have you ever wondered why? Perhaps all drugged out animals in America are attracted to the golden gate bridge? They just...ah... naturally tend to congregate there?

      left in my car. Seriously, they really think that my FM transmitter and 75 cents are worth something? And this is in Portrero FFS.

      Feel the same way about v1agra spam... seriously how does anyone make money off this shit?

      You consistently see these animals constantly shooting up, leaving needles everywhere, pissing in the street, and hassling you for money. They're a blight and the city's permissive attitude towards them only encourages more to show up.

      It's time we stop wasting money on these animals when they OD with Naloxone. If they want to drug themselves to the point of death, let them. It's time we let Darwin do his work.

      Zap them, beat them, lock them up and forcibly detox them from whatever drug they love, I don't care. It's high time vagrancy is treated the same way the homeless treat our communities, with reckless abandonment.

      Have you done anything to build consensus to make government change it's insane policies? Anything at all to address underlying causes? BTW what's average home in San Fran running these days? A cool mil?

      In the real world literally beating down symptoms

  • those 5 dollar tasers at dollar store are coming in great. Passing those out to homeless and told to short out any robot they see.

    • 5 dollar tasers at dollar store are coming in great.

      They only sell those at the five-dollar store.

  • ... seriously hilarious grey-hat hacker prank waiting to happen. I suspect bananapeels won't cut it, put I'm sure that plastic tarp, sailfishing string, graphite spray/powder, oil, spray-paint, craltops, remote controlled tilt-ramps, duct-tape, wall-to-wall carpeting tape, some other trinkets and perhaps even some more elaborate wireless/mobile connection hacking can produce balls of fun with this partolbot. Or some way to mislead it into a pit or curb with fake portable walls or something.

    Don't tell me you

    • Just throw a tarp over it, put it in a metal Faraday cage box, and take it on "vacation" to a San Diego beach. Let the owners wonder why they're suddenly getting footage of Sunset Cliffs :)
      • going to go out on a limb here and suggest that a Faraday cage is not part of most homeless peoples' daily carry.

    • I'm surprised someone hasn't stolen the robot and parted it out on Ebay.
    • seriously hilarious grey-hat hacker prank waiting to happen. I suspect bananapeels won't cut it, put I'm sure that plastic tarp, sailfishing string, graphite spray/powder, oil, spray-paint, craltops, remote controlled tilt-ramps, duct-tape, wall-to-wall carpeting tape, some other trinkets and perhaps even some more elaborate wireless/mobile connection hacking can produce balls of fun with this partolbot.

      It's already happened, friend. If you scroll to the bottom of the article, you will find that the patro

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        I just have to wonder did it say in a raspy metallic voice "vision inpaired, I can not see!"?

        • I just have to wonder did it say in a raspy metallic voice "vision inpaired, I can not see!"?

          No, it said, "Please stop resisting" and then, "Please drop your weapon" and then shot and killed the unarmed naked man crawling away on his hands and knees begging not to be shot.

          Phoenix police just put in an order for 200 of the robots.

  • by mentil ( 1748130 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @07:40PM (#55735127)

    San Francisco recently voted to cut down on the number of robots that roam the streets of the city, which has seen an influx of small delivery robots in recent years. The city said it would issue the SPCA a fine of $1,000 per day for illegally operating on a public right-of-way if it continued to use the security robot outside its premises

    Maybe the city should hire the homeless people to shoo away the robots, and issue tickets.

  • I have seen this story in other venues, and am having trouble believing it's for real. The SPCA? Not a particularly wealthy organization or one that is so on the technological leading edge that they'd be using robots.
  • ...are animals too! But then an awful lot of dedicated 'animal lovers' have strong misanthropic tendencies.
  • âoeWe werenâ(TM)t able to use the sidewalks at all when thereâ(TM)s needles and tents and bikes, so from a walking standpoint I find the robot much easier to navigate than an encampment,â Jennifer Scarlett, the S.F. SPCAâ(TM)s president, told the Business Times.

  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @09:07PM (#55735559)

    It's very strange that the SPCA of all organizations is acting like that rich tech bro a few years back who published a diatribe about how the homeless people on his building's street weren't being sufficiently controlled by the city.

    My idea for fixing the problem is to re-open state mental hospitals. Almost all of the homeless problem is due to mental illness and drug addiction. Where I live, there are 5 massive, closed mental hospital complexes within 50 miles that housed thousands of patients each before the deinstitutionalization wave of the 70s and 80s. Why not reopen them as voluntary treatment centers again? Instead of beating and lobotomizing patients, give them the help they need to fix whatever problem is interfering with them having a normal existence.

    • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @11:14PM (#55736049)

      It's very strange that the SPCA of all organizations is acting like that rich tech bro ....

      Not really.... they're being perfectly reasonable. The public access right of way is the public access right of way, not the personal property of homeless people ----- it's public so you can move through that area to go about your business, not so people can takeover that spot and sit there causing interference with others. Some person's lack of a home doesn't give them a right to setup tents and long-term camp your body at the entrance to someone else's facility.

      So the $1000/day fine for the robot makes sense, so long as the authorities are also aggressively issuing such fines and law enforcement actions against any individuals setting up camp or tents.

    • by Uberbah ( 647458 ) on Thursday December 14, 2017 @12:28AM (#55736261)

      Almost all of the homeless problem is due to mental illness and drug addiction.

      Nah, it's about poverty. If drug addiction lead to homelessness, Robert Downy Jr. and Lindsey Lohan would have moved into cardboard boxes decades ago.

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      If you watch the homeless people, a fair percentage of the older ones will be showing obvious signs of tardive dyskinesia (AKA the thorazine shuffle). They were in the mental institutions before they closed and were tossed out on the streets without regard for their ability to take care of themselves.

  • They'll just switch to very large bug zappers . . .

  • and I can't think of one!

  • they could just install a few speakers outside and play a really annoying song over and over.

  • ...for illegally operating on a public right-of-way...

    If it's public property, how can you be illegally on it? I know you can take over/block public sidewalks (well, unless you are homeless, then SF and other liberal cities don't give a rip), but how is a roaming robot illegally on a public sidewalk?

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