An animal shelter in San Francisco is getting slammed for using a robot to deter homeless people from setting up encampments near its business. The San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), an animal hospital and adoption group, employed a Knightscope K5 robot to wander up and down its sidewalks (yes, that’s the same model that drowned itself in a fountain a few months back).
— Knightscope (@iKnightscope) November 7, 2017
The robot, which is brazenly adorned with animal stickers, doesn’t harm people or tell folks to go away. Equipped with cameras, lasers, and thermal sensors, it acts as a bodyguard, detecting suspicious human activity and alerting authorities. Costing just $6 an hour to rent, the cone-shaped machine is cheaper to employ than a human.
The robot was supposedly being used by the shelter to reduce the number of crimes, not to push homeless people out, the San Francisco Business Times reported. Knightscope tried to justify the use of its robot on Twitter, claiming there are fewer homeless camps and car break-ins since the Dalek-like machine started patrolling the area outside the building.
Contrary to sensationalized reports, we were not brought in to clear area of homeless individuals in SF. Our client has right to protect their property, employees and visitors. SPCA has reported fewer car break-ins and overall improved safety and quality of the surrounding area.
— Knightscope (@iKnightscope) December 13, 2017
“We weren’t able to use the sidewalks at all when there’s needles and tents and bikes, so from a walking standpoint I find the robot much easier to navigate than an encampment,” Jennifer Scarlett, president of the San Francisco SPCA chapter, told the Times.
Scarlett said some people have vandalized the robot, including one person who put “a tarp over it, knocked it over, and put barbecue sauce on all the sensors.” A Twitter user claims someone “smeared their poo” on it.
The SPCA was met with harsh criticism for using a robot to drive people out of encampments. People went after the group and Knightscope on social media, questioning the ethics of its decisions.
This is why people think that animal activists care more about nonhuman animals than people.
Please stop this!https://t.co/0gTFumIKnq
— Doris Lin Ⓥ (@DorisLin) December 13, 2017
Cool… a heartless, guiltless robot drone to shame and shoo homeless democrats away…
— Griffin O'Neal (@6377d6912eee445) December 13, 2017
It costs 10,000 to give a homeless person basic shelter. Fuck this robot and its creator.
— Mathew Collin Mendel 🎅 (@monkbot10) December 13, 2017
Others urged people to destroy the human-hating machine.
So, the @sfspca, the ANIMAL SHELTER… bought a ROBOT… To chase away HOMELESS PEOPLE… Because it's cheaper than hiring a security guard. And they put animal stickers on it, so it's cute.
— Max Scoville (@MaxScoville) December 13, 2017
Someone give the homeless baseball bats to fight back against the robot menace.
— .hack//weis🌹 (@HedinnWeis) December 12, 2017
I would definitely take a piss into an anti-homeless robot alright.
— Frankie says "Arm The Unemployed" (@retroremakes) December 12, 2017
Many argued the money spent on renting the robot should have been used to help the homeless.
So they find money to create this robot, and pay for its operation and workers, but don't have money to give homeless people shelter and food??!!!
— James V (@jvs500) December 12, 2017
So, instead of using all that intellect & money to solve the homeless problem, they built a robot to inconvenience the most inconvenienced people on the planet?
— #FirstNightPGH (@DayBracey) December 12, 2017
So what's worth more to you: 60k to build a robot to deter homeless, or 60k to help a homeless person and make their life better. That's how much tese things cost.
— Maria (@The_Manya) December 13, 2017
The city of San Francisco told the animal shelter it could no longer operate the robot without a permit. It threatened a $1,000 fine per day for illegally operating the robot on city-owned grounds.