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Labor Day weekend big brother: police to use drones to check on party complaints

Assistant NYPD Commissioner Kaz Daughtry said the drones will respond to ‘non-priority and priority calls’



On Thursday, officials announced that the New York City police department has plans to use unmanned drone aircraft in order to help respond to complaints about holiday weekend parties and gatherings. Barbecues, private events, large gatherings or crowds and noisy backyard complaints could all be subject to the flying officer in the sky this Labor Day weekend.

“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 response was mixed, prompting cries from civil liberties and privacy advocates. “It’s a troubling announcement and it flies in the face of the POST Act,” said Daniel Schwarz, a privacy and technology strategist at the New York Civil Liberties Union, referring to a 2020 city law that requires the NYPD to disclose its surveillance tactics. “Deploying drones in this way is a sci-fi inspired scenario.”

“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, the executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (STOP).

The Associated Press reports that the move was announced during a security briefing focused on J’ouvert, an annual Caribbean festival marking the end of slavery that brings thousands of revelers and a heavy police presence to the streets of Brooklyn. Daughtry said the drones would respond to “non-priority and priority calls” beyond the parade route.

Drones are becoming increasingly popular in the field: Data maintained by the city shows the police department has used drones for public safety or emergency purposes 124 times this year, up from just four times in all of 2022. According to a recent report from the American Civil Liberty Union, around 1,400 police departments across the country are currently using drones in some form.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a former police captain, has said he wants to see police further embrace the “endless” potential of drones, citing Israel’s use of the technology as a blueprint after visiting the country last week.

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