NEW YORK (AP) — Those attending outdoor parties or barbecues in New York City this weekend may notice the presence of an unusual guest: a police surveillance drone.
The New York City police department plans to fly those drones in response to complaints about large gatherings, including private events, over the Labor Day long weekend, officials announced Thursday.
“If a person calls to say there’s a big crowd, a big backyard party, we’ll use our resources to get up there and go check on the party,” New York Police Deputy Chief Kaz Daughtry said at a news conference. York.
The plan sparked an immediate backlash from privacy and civil liberties advocates, raising questions about whether this use of drones violates policing laws.
“This is a concerning announcement and it goes against the POST Act,” said Daniel Schwarz, a privacy and technology strategist for the New York Civil Liberties Union, referring to a 2020 city law that requires the New York police to give to know their surveillance tactics. “Deploying drones in this way is a sci-fi inspired scenario.”
The move was announced during a security briefing focused on J’ouvert, an annual Caribbean festival commemorating the end of slavery that draws thousands of revelers and a heavy police presence to the streets of Brooklyn. Daughtry said the drones would respond to “priority and non-priority calls” beyond the parade route.
Like many other cities, New York is increasingly relying on drones for law enforcement purposes. According to official data, police have used drones for emergency or public safety purposes 124 times this year, up from just four times in all of 2022.
Mayor Eric Adams, a former police captain, has said he wants police to further embrace the “infinite” potential of drones. But as technology proliferates, privacy advocates say regulations have not kept up, opening the door to intrusive surveillance that would be illegal if carried out by human police.
The NYPD did not respond to an email seeking more information about its drone policies.