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LAPD Buys Germ-Killing Robot To Sweep Station On Skid Row

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The Los Angeles Police Department rolled out the newest member of its squad on Friday: a germ-killing robot that's meant to prevent infections after a recent scare with typhoid fever.

The $110,000 robot emits pulses of ultraviolet light for five-minute intervals, during which the robot's manufacturer says that it kills 80% to 90% of germs in the air and on open surfaces.

The LAPD bought the robot after an officer at Central Division -- the precinct in the heart of Skid Row -- was diagnosed last month with Salmonella Typhi, the bacteria that causes typhoid fever. Two other Central Division officers also reported similar symptoms.

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In addition to the robot, Central Division also purchased two shoe sanitizers for personnel to use when coming into the building. The machines -- which look like high-tech weight scales -- bathe the user's shoes in ultraviolet light for eight seconds when he or she stands on them.

L.A. Police Chief Michael Moore hopes the acquisition of both the robot and the shoe sanitizers will mitigate the recent uptick in infectious diseases among officers.

LAPD Chief Michael Moore debuts the new germ-killing robot at Central Division on Skid Row. (Gabriel Cortes/LAist)

"It is a tremendous step for us," Moore said at the unveiling at Central Division Friday, "to position multiple devices at entry points here and ask our personnel to do an eight-second time out to have their footwear cleaned."

Moore pointed to other measures that his department and the mayor's office have taken to keep Central Division clean, including trimming overgrown trees that allowed rats to enter the building through the roof and paving over planters on the station's perimeter that can attract vermin.

He also cited increased janitorial service and the proliferation of hand sanitizer stations inside the building.

Still, Moore acknowledged that keeping Central Division completely germ free will be nearly impossible because of the high traffic that it sees.

"We are by no means a 100% sterile facility," he said. "We never will be."

LAPD will monitor the impact of the new robot and the foot sanitizers at Central Division, and if the experiment proves successful, it could purchase more such devices in the coming months.