Two men are being held hostage in an apartment in the Bronx. Police said they were threatened with guns, tied and tortured for hours by two other men disguised as plumber to get inside.
One of the victims managed to escape and called the police, who showed up early Tuesday morning at the apartment on East 227 Street, unsure if the armed men were still inside.
Police decided it was time to deploy the Digidog, a 70-pound robotic dog with its walk around, its frame-mounted cameras and lights, and a two-way intercom that allowed police to maneuver it from afar. to see and hear what’s going on. .
Robots are visible in the dark, police said, and assess the safety of officers entering an apartment or building where a threat might be.
In the case of the Bronx home infiltration, police said Digidog helped officers determine that no one was inside. Police said they were still looking for two people who stole a cell phone and $ 2,000 in cash and burned one of the victims with a hot iron.
“The NYPD has been using robots since the 1970s to save lives in hostage situations and the hazmat incident,” the set said on Twitter. “This robot model is being tested to evaluate its capabilities compared to other models being used by our emergency service unit and bomb squad.”
But robots have skeptics.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat, describes Digidog on Twitter like a “robot surveillance ground” drone.
“Ask yourself: The last time you saw world-class next-generation technology for education, healthcare, housing, etc. has always been a priority for these underserved communities When is it? ” she say on Twitter, link to a New York Post story about Digidog.
The City Council passed the Public Surveillance Technology Act last June amid an effort to reform the police force, many of which were triggered by the Black Lives Matter protests.
The act requires the Police Department to be more transparent about its monitoring tools and technology, including Digidog, which civil libertarians believe is lacking.
Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, said empowering a robot to do police work could have effects on bias, mobile surveillance, hacking, and privacy. . There is also concern that the robot could be paired with other technology and weaponized.
“We are seeing a lot of police departments applying powerful new surveillance technology and other technologies without notice, let alone asking for the communities they serve,” he said. “So openness and transparency are key.”
The New York Police Department did not respond to a request for comment on civil liberties concerns.
Keith Taylor, former SWAT sergeant at the Police Department, teaching at John Jay’s College of Criminal Justice, said a mobile device that can gather intelligence about a fluctuating situation remotely has ” Great potential ”to limit injury and death.
“It is important to ask the police’s authority, but this seems pretty simple,” he said. “It is designed to help law enforcement get the information they need without a deadly gunfight, for example.”
The New York Police Department is one of only three people in the country to have a mechanical dog, made by Boston Dynamics, a tech company known for its videos of robots jumping and jumping with its eerie-like fluidity. human.
The company, called the robot dog Spot, started selling it last June. Michael Perry, the company’s vice president of business development, says most buyers are utility and energy companies, as well as manufacturers and construction companies, using it to go into the void. time is too dangerous for humans.
Robots have been used to check locations for hazardous materials. At the beginning of the pandemic, it was used by health workers to communicate with potentially ill patients at the hospital’s classification sites, Mr. Perry said.
Most companies rename the robot after they buy it, he says, giving it names like Bolt, Mac and Cheese.
The Massachusetts State Police and the Honolulu Police Department are also using it. Other police departments have phoned the company to learn more about the robot, which starts at around $ 74,000 and could be more expensive with additional features, Mr. Perry said.
The robot dog, which has a battery life of 90 minutes and travels at three miles per hour, is not designed to act as a covert mass monitoring tool, Mr. Perry said.
“It’s loud and flashing lights,” he said. “It’s not something discreet.”
The use of robots that can be deployed into dangerous situations to keep police officers from harm may become the norm.
In Dallas in 2016, police ended a deadlock with a gunman being hunted for in the killing of 5 officers using a robot to blow him up.
In 2015, a man with a knife threatened to jump to a bridge in San Jose, California, was arrested after police arrested a robot that brought him a phone and pizza.
A year earlier, Albuquerque police used a robot to “deploy chemical bombs” in a motel room where a man fenced himself with a gun, a ministry report said. He has given up.