May 10, 2008
This story first appeared in Atlanta’s Journal-Constitution in February, but only recently started making rounds on the ‘net. Bar owner Rufus Terrill had enough of the pushers, derelicts, and criminal elements around his watering hole. His answer: One bad-assed, homebuilt robot.
From the Atlanta Journal-Consititution:
He mounted an old meat smoker atop a three-wheel scooter and attached a spotlight, an infrared camera, water cannon and a loudspeaker. He covered the contraption with impact-resistant rubber and painted the whole thing jet black.
And so was born what surely must be Atlanta’s first remote-controlled, robotic vigilante.
Proto-’Robocop’ hits the streets. The area around O’Terrill (the bar) also has a daycare center… and a homeless shelter that drug dealers target every night. Terrill built and pilots his bot to combat the dealers, playing on the Terminator fears of a robot revolt.
Late at night several times a week, Terrill powers up the 4-foot-tall, 300 pound device and reaches for a remote control packed with two joysticks and various knobs and switches. Standing on a nearby corner, he maneuvers the machine down the block, often to a daycare center where it accosts what Terrill says are drug dealers, vagrants and others who shouldn’t be there.
He flashes the robot’s spotlight and grabs a walkie-talkie, which he uses to boom his disembodied voice over the robot’s sound system.
“I tell them they are trespassing, it’s private property, and they have to leave,” he said. “They throw bottles and cans at it. That’s when I shoot the water cannon. They just scatter like roaches.”
Homeless advocates have criticized the Bum Bot as an attention-grabbing political ploy (Terrill ran for lieutenant governor of Georgia in 2006 and lost), and Atlanta police have threatened to arrest Terrill for assault if he used the bot’s water cannon on someone. But so far, there haven’t been any complaints logged against Terrill or his bot, and threats to shoot the bot have been hollow.
More (fire)power to you, Bum Bot! Terrill’s patrons have been having fun watching Bum Bot in action, and the daycare center has been happy with the decrease in criminal activity since its patrols in the area.
There may be other Bum Bots out there, silently patrolling the mean streets and chasing the bums away. Thanks to Terrill and his Bum Bot, there are going to be other handyman types building “Bum Bots” to combat crime in their area.