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'It’s like interacting with a human': Portland installs robot security as part of surveillance strategy to lower crime
Images via KPTV FOX 12 Oregon / YouTube (screenshots)

'It’s like interacting with a human': Portland installs robot security as part of surveillance strategy to lower crime

Portland, Oregon, is the latest city to utilize a mobile robot in place of patrolling security guards to lower crime rates in its downtown core.

City officials partnered with community improvement activists and corporate property owners to implement a 120-foot mural in downtown Portland as part of a revitalization program.

As KPTV Fox 12 Oregon reported, the project included a painting on the walls of the U.S. Bancorp Tower parking garage. The city hoped that the art project will be effective as part of sprucing up the city's downtown area that has been typically rife with crime.

To help guard the same area, the city has installed more than 200 surveillance cameras along with a new robot addition called "Rob."

The patrolling robot navigates a local parking garage 24 hours a day and is equipped with thermal imaging and a two-way intercom for citizens to speak to the operator.

"It’s like interacting with a human, because there is a human on the other side," said Keren Eichen of Unico Properties, a private equity and real estate company. "If you stop and speak to the robot, you know that there’s someone on the other side who’s answering your questions who can give you directions, can tell you happy holidays."

"This is easier than staffing security because he doesn’t get tired, he doesn’t get cold," Eichen added.

Mark Wells, from a group called Portland Clean and Safe, touted the effects of the new surveillance and said that there has been a sharp decrease in crime.

"We looked at reported crime for assault, vandalism, theft and in November, we a saw a 50% decrease last month than we did the prior five months," Wells claimed. "Crime doesn’t thrive in areas that are vibrant and full of people walking, eating, enjoying the amenities downtown."

However, according to official Portland crime statistics, from January to October 2023, downtown Portland saw 4,227 property crimes, 688 assaults, 40 sex offenses, and 232 "society" crimes, which included drug offenses.

During the same time period in 2022, the downtown area had 3,798 property crimes, 664 assaults, 31 sex offenses, and only 93 societal crimes.

Offenses in the area totaled 4,601 for January-October 2022, nearly 600 fewer than the 5,198 offenses during the same time period of 2023.

Portland is not the first major U.S. city to implement robotic security forces. Cleveland deployed a similar robot named Sam in August 2023, with the city stating that the robot "loves hugs and selfies."

In April 2023, New York Mayor Eric Adams told citizens they "cannot be afraid of [the technology]," when the New York Police Department deployed their own mobile security machine in New York City subways.

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Andrew Chapados

Andrew Chapados

Andrew Chapados is a writer focusing on sports, culture, entertainment, gaming, and U.S. politics. The podcaster and former radio-broadcaster also served in the Canadian Armed Forces, which he confirms actually does exist.
@andrewsaystv →