Nationwide Crisis as Humans Attack Security Robots in San Francisco, D.C.

Knightscope robot (Rob Lever / AFP / Getty)
Rob Lever / AFP / Getty

Security robots patrolling the streets of San Francisco and Washington, DC, have been harassed, beat up, and even been the victims of attempted “murder” by crazed humans.

As America’s premier “sanctuary city,” in the midst of a homelessness crisis and an opioid epidemic, San Francisco residents must deal with vandalism, car break-ins, thefts, and lots of needles on the street. Interactions with police are politically fraught in the era of Black Lives Matter.

One solution: robots.

A company called Knightscope manufactures robots that have been deployed to dangerous crime-ridden homeless encampments in places like the Mission District in San Francisco. Knightscope’s 6-foot tall, rocket-shaped, and armless design robot include high-resolution infrared cameras that can make out license plates, and onboard wireless sensors that can identify smartphones down to the MAC and IP addresses,

The downtown San Francisco branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA ) reported this week that their 400-pound Knightscope K5 security robot, nick-named K-9, that had been patrolling to prevent the homeless from congregating in front its building, had been screamed at, knocked to the ground and covered in feces.

The San Francisco Business Journal reported that K-9 had regularly suffered the humiliation of having barbecue sauce smeared on its sensors. K-9 had also been pushed over on one occasion, and then covered with the type of tarp often used after a senseless street murder.

But SPCA’s president Jennifer Scarlett told the Biz Journal that it had contracted with Knightscope to bring K-9 after being frustrated: “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.”

Rather than performing an intervention to respond to K-9 being cyber bullied by local residents, city officials threatened the SPCA with $1,000-per-day fines for failing to obtain autonomous data machine permits to operate K-9 as a high-tech bouncer.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the SPCA has now pulled its K-9 from service.

Reports have also been received from other communities that Knightscope K5 security robots have suffered similar disrespect and have even perished on the job.

Abuse of a Knightscope K5 security robot was reported in Washington, DC’s tony Georgetown Harbour, where a drunk human wantonly attacked a K-5 and beat it to the ground before he could be arrested for assault and battery  — presumably of a drone.

The K-5 returned to active service, but apparently was suffering some form of post-traumatic stress-disorder. A few days later the robot drove itself off a main pathway and fell into a fountain, where it seemed to have shorted-out and drowned.


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