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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Using your own Robocop for chasing off people

Imagine loitering on a street in Atlanta at night, when suddenly you see something from a science fiction movie, a contraption that can throw icy water at you, or use its infrared camera at you, and then shines a spotlight at you. Further, you can hear what unmistakably sounds like words on a loudspeaker. Enough to scare most drug dealers or other such unsavory characters. And this is exactly what a bar owner in Atlanta does at night = he has built this device to scare people away from a property in the downtown area. And the reason for doing so ? It is a place where children play during the day, but is used for far worse things at night by drug dealers and other criminals:

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."
Terrill, an engineer by trade, is also a board member at the day care center. Tired of cleaning up after the shady characters, he decided to take action. That's when he built his downtown Darth Vader of sorts.
"He's a neighborhood vigilante," says Meredith, "and when he came up with this -- you know, I call it Robocop -- I said, 'Praise God.' "
The daycare center is a block from a homeless shelter. 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."

The police are not yet opposing this, although if somebody is sprayed with icy water, they could potentially sue and get the police involved.

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