Outdoor gatherings in New York City may fall under the watchful eye of police drones 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,” assistant NYPD commissioner Kaz Daughtry announced at a press conference on Thursday.

The plan was detailed during a security briefing regarding J’ouvert, a celebration with origins in the emancipation of enslaved people in the Caribbean, followed by the West Indian American Day Parade. The event celebrates Caribbean history, culture, music and food, and brings thousands of people who join in the festivities.

Surveillance drones will be piloted by New York City police in response to complaints regarding large gatherings, which include private events, and will be employed for both “non-priority and priority calls” beyond the parade route, according to Daughtry.

He continued, “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, and we’ll be able to determine how many resources we need to send to that location for this weekend.” The assistant commissioner added that the drone team would be “starting tonight, all the way into Monday morning.”


As the Associated Press reported, privacy and civil liberties advocates have raised concerns over whether this type of drone use violated existing laws for police surveillance. New York City’s POST Act requires that the NYPD publish plans to use new surveillance technologies 90 days ahead of time, so that the public has sufficient time to review these final policies.

“It’s a troubling announcement and it flies in the face of the POST Act,” Daniel Schwarz, a privacy and technology strategist at the New York Civil Liberties Union told AP. “Deploying drones in this way is a sci-fi inspired scenario.”