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NYPD Is Looking Into Using Drones For Surveillance

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NEW YORK DRONES
DON EMMERT via Getty Images

New York City police commissioner Bill Bratton expressed his support Tuesday for the use of drones as a potentially reliable tool to help monitor and reduce crime in the city, calling the unmanned devices "extraordinarily effective."

“Myself, I’m supportive of the concept of drones, not only for police but for public safety in general,” Bratton said at a City Council’s Public Safety Committee meeting. “It’s something that we actively keep looking at and stay aware of.”

The city has embraced high-tech surveillance, with $500,000 allotted for a new pilot program to test gunshot detectors in neighborhoods with high crime rates. Triggered by the sound of shots, camera sensors then transmit the location of the sounds -- and possibly a photograph of the alleged shooter -- to police officials.

Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller, who also spoke at Tuesday's meeting, said drones would not be deployed anytime soon.

“At this point, we have no drones, don’t use any drones, haven’t deployed any drones,” Miller said. “However, it’s something that we’ll continue to look at.”

Law enforcement agencies throughout the country have already begun using similar gunshot detectors and domestic drones. But civil rights groups have raised deep concerns over their potential violations of privacy, particularly as such surveillance equipment becomes cheaper to produce.

In 2013, Bratton's predecessor, Ray Kelly, said the NYPD was looking into the potential use of drones to size up large demonstrations.. But he acknowledged that there were specific hurdles unique to using drones in New York City, including heavy air traffic.

The budget of the new gunshot detectors program awaits approval from Mayor Bill de Blasio and city council.

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