Japan’s Nikkan Spa recently posted images of a Chinese “RoboCop” “patrolling” the streets. Despite looking humanoid, the “RoboCop” in question was far from a robotic police officer. They also look nothing like RoboCop. RoboCop will shoot you in the face. These will not.
Standing at attention, the near 2m tall sentries are not man-machine hybrids or even pure autonomous robots. They are instead camera equipped emergency call towers. The robots called “Smart Swat” (“智能特警”) are worth about 20,000 RMB ($3000) a piece. They also just… stand there. Not only do they stop crimes, but recently, they’re also the victims of them.
Originally a concept from Beijing, “Smart Swats” were implemented for the 2008 Olympics games. After the games, the “robot” sentries were slowly phased out. Their original purpose was to record and help report incidents in high traffic locations that did not have an officer station. If you had an incident to report, all you had to do was push the button on the stomach. It would automatically dial 110 (triple-zero in China) and flash alarm lights.
According to a 2010 report by The Beijing News, there are about 12 police officers to every 10,000 citizens. If you extrapolate the numbers while keeping in mind that Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing and Guangzhou have higher concentrations of police, it shows that China has a very low police to population ratio as well as a need for the “Smart Swat”.
Shxb.net News reported that the installation of the “Smart Swats” has helped lower crime, particularly in the Southern Chinese city of Kunming, Yunan province. According to its report, the crime rate in Kunming fell 68.8 per cent in since the installation of the machines. That doesn’t mean they are a complete success.
It’s becoming increasingly rarer to see these monoliths standing on city streets in cities like Beijing and Shanghai. Last year a string of crimes were committed against the “smart swats” in Kunming. Unknown assailants attacked and stole the batteries inside of the “smart swats”. On top of that, supposedly 50 per cent of all alerts sounded by the machines proved to be either false or a child’s prank.