Saturday, 2 September 2023

New York Police Will Use Drones To Monitor Labor Day Parties

 The NYPD plans to use drones to monitor Labor Day parties this weekend.

The unmanned drones will be dispatched in response to complaints about large gatherings like barbecues, including private events, officials said Thursday.

“If a caller states there’s a large crowd, a large party in a backyard, we’re going to be utilizing our assets to go up and go check on the party,” Kaz Daughtry, the assistant NYPD Commissioner, said at a press conference.

The drones were announced during a security briefing about an annual Caribbean festival in Brooklyn called J’ouvert that attracts thousands of people. The drones will be deployed for “non-priority and priority calls” off the parade route, Daughtry said.

The announcement sparked immediate criticism from privacy advocates who argued the police drone use is illegal.

“It’s a troubling announcement,” Daniel Schwarz, a privacy and technology strategist at the New York Civil Liberties Union, told the Associated Press.

“Deploying drones in this way is a sci-fi inspired scenario,” he said.

Schwarz argued the NYPD’s plan “flies in the face” of the POST Act, a 2020 city law that requires the police force to be transparent about its surveillance methods.


“One of the biggest concerns with the rush to roll out new forms of aerial surveillance is how few protections we have against seeing these cameras aimed at our backyards or even our bedrooms,” said Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (STOP).

“Clearly, flying a drone over a backyard barbecue is a step too far for many New Yorkers,” Cahn said.

The NYPD’s use of drones has skyrocketed to 124 occasions so far this year, up from only four times using drones in all of last year, according to city data.

Mayor Eric Adams, who previously said the police drones have “endless” potential, dismissed concerns about the drones, promising no one would be “monitored.”

“We have to push back on the sci-fi aspects of drones — nobody’s going to be monitored,” Adams said Friday at a press conference alongside NYPD Commissioner Eddie Caban.

“So what we’re doing over this weekend, there are a number of calls of loud music, disruptive behavior,” Adams said. “Instead of the police having to respond and look at those, they’re going to utilize drones from a safe distance up, not down flying in someone’s backyard to see what they have on a grill.”

Adams said the NYPD will use the drones to determine whether they need to send crisis management teams immediately to address the problem. He argued that drones can arrive at a problem area much faster than cops trying to navigate crowded streets.

The NYPD commissioner agreed with the mayor and said drones have been “a wonderful thing” for the police force.

“Everybody, like the mayor said, is worried about sci-fi,” the commissioner said.

The city recently deployed the police drones at two Manhattan events that got out of hand — a fight at Washington Square Park after the Pride parade, and during streamer Kai Cenat’s gamer giveaway in Union Square that erupted into violence.

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