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Bend’s downtown parking garage may add a robot on patrol in bid to prevent crime, problems

(Update: Adding video, comments from Bend's parking division manager, downtown businesses)

'I feel like there is a lot of crime in there, especially at night'

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The city of Bend is considering adding a Knightscope K3 robot to its downtown Centennial Parking Garage to patrol the multi-story structure and reduce the risk of crimes such as theft and vandalism.

The robot has been used in other locations to patrol, like the NBA Sacramento Kings' arena Golden 1 Center, and the New York Police Department has used the K3 and other such mobile robots to help prevent crime in the Big Apple.

Bend Parking Division Manager Tobias Marx explained why they are considering the robot.

"The purpose of it really is to have a constant presence that gives people a feeling of sense and safety in the parking garage," he said.

The Knightscope K3 weighs about 340 pounds, is 51 inches tall and can roll along at a maximum of 3 MPH. It has five cameras and 30 sensors, according to the Golden 1 Center's website.

The robot would cost the city about $24,000 a year to lease, according to Marx. It can be programmed to listen and look for potentially dangerous or unsafe behavior, such as skidding tires or a crowd huddled in a corner.

A hairstylist at Tangerine Salon named Bri says she uses the garage frequently.

"I feel like there is a lot of crime in there, especially late at night," she said. "And so to have that security of, you know -- it's not a police officer, it's a robot. Maybe it's the next best thing that we need."

The unnamed robot would patrol the Centennial Garage in eight-hour shifts.

"It's equipped with cameras, 360-degree cameras," Marx explained. "It's equipped with microphones, heat sensors and stuff. So it's preprogrammed to detect certain behaviors."

According to the Bend Police Department, an average of 12 calls a month are related to the parking garage involving crimes and issues such as criminal mischief and hit-and-runs.

Sidelines Sports Bar & Grill bartender Rachael Davis says she doesn't use the garage, due to a lack of security. "Definitely that's the last place I park, and I only park there if I absolutely have to because it's hidden away," Davis said.

If the robot does encounter criminal activity, it'll be able to call for a response. Marx explained, "It can be the Parking Division, it can be the police, it can be the monitoring company -- whoever we want to send that to, it can do that."

Rick Johns owns multiple businesses in Bend, including Haven Home Style.

Johns feels more police staffing would be a better option to deter crime.

"I think it's a complete waste of money," he said. "I don't think we need a robot."

"People aren't coming downtown, especially locals, because there's nowhere to park," Johns added. "And the (parking garage) gate system is so complicated and so messed up that it doesn't really work. So people don't do it."

But Shannon Monihan, the director of the Downtown Bend Business Association, says she would welcome a robot on watch.

"You want to have a little bit of a sense of, there are cameras that are watching," she said. "If something were to go wrong or there was some kind of threat in the parking garage, you want to know that somebody is aware, or someone will call and come and help you."

If the city approves it, Marx says the robot would debut in the downtown garage by early next year. He said the city is looking to have a naming contest for it.

Article Topic Follows: Bend

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Blake Mayfield

Blake Mayfield is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Blake here.


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