Eric Adams uses NYPD drones to spy on backyards as J’ouvert, West Indian Day parties commence
New Yorkers planning to attend outdoor parties or barbecues in New York City anytime soon may be in for an unwelcome surprise: a surveillance drone operated by city police.
The New York City police department has said it will be flying these unmanned drones during the Labor Day weekend after it received complaints about big gatherings, private events included. The announcement came during a briefing focused on J’ouvert, a yearly Caribbean festival commemorating the end of slavery.
“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, stated at a press conference on Thursday.
Privacy and civil liberties advocates promptly shared their disdain for the new surveillance system and have suggested that the current drone use may already break existing laws regarding police monitoring, reported the Associated Press.
“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, in reference to a 2020 city law that mandates the NYPD disclose its surveillance tactics.
“Deploying drones in this way is a sci-fi inspired scenario.”
Daughtry indicated that the drones would be used to monitor people in both “non-priority and priority calls.”
New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who himself is a former police captain, has expressed support for the use of drones by law enforcement. He said he hopes police will utilize the technology’s “endless” potential, and specifically pointed to Israel’s use of it as a model following a visit last week, according to the Associated Press.
Upon being asked to comment on the new drone initiative, an Adams spokesperson shared a link to rules pertaining to private drone operators in the city. There was nothing said about the NYPD’s own policies about drone surveillance.
Many disagree with this idea of increasing the surveillance state, including Albert Fox Cahn, the executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (STOP).
“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,” Cahn explained.
“Clearly, flying a drone over a backyard barbecue is a step too far for many New Yorkers.”