NYPD to monitor Labor Day parties using surveillance drones

NYPD officers watch a drone in Queens, New York City.
(Image credit: Gardiner Anderson / NY Daily News via Getty Images)

Rowdy partiers in New York City this Labor Day weekend may not be greeted by a police officer telling them to keep it down, but rather by an eye in the sky.

The NYPD said Thursday that it would use surveillance drones to monitor backyard Labor Day parties, ensuring that they don't get out of control. The drones "are going to be responding to non-priority calls and priority calls," NYPD Assistant Commissioner Kaz Daughtry said at a press conference. This would mostly include calls relating to noise and crowd complaints from backyard parties.

"For example, if we have any 311 calls on our non-emergency line, where if a caller states there is a large crowd, a large party in the backyard, we're going to be utilizing our assets to go up, go check on the party, to make sure if the call is founded or not," Daughtry said. "We'll be able to determine how many resources we need to send to that location for this weekend. We will have our drone team out there, starting tonight, all the way into Monday morning."

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However, critics of the plan have warned that the use of drones in this manner could constitute a violation of privacy and civil liberties. The move also appears to violate the city's POST Act, which states that the NYPD must "publish impact and use policies for the surveillance technologies used by the Department" at least 90 days prior to their implementation. While the NYPD did release an "unmanned aircraft systems" policy guide in 2021, this claimed the drones would only be used for more serious incidences such as search-and-rescue, disaster response, active shooters and hostage negotiations.

Daniel Schwarz, a privacy and technology strategist at the New York Civil Liberties Union, told The Associated Press that the Labor Day plan was "a sci-fi-inspired scenario."

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