At least 910 law enforcement and fire/emergency agencies across the U.S. now use drones, a figure that more than doubled from 2016 to 2018. Among them is the New York Police Department, which announced the formation of a new group specifically to handle drones on December 4, 2018.
The NYPD’s Technical Assistance Response Unit (TARU) will oversee the new team of 29 specially-trained officers and 14 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). TARU’s primary job is to provide audiovisual surveillance technology and services to the entire NYPD, and their efforts will likely play a large role in many criminal defense cases.
Uses of Drones for Law Enforcement in New York City
The NYPD plans to use their drones for purposes such as:
- Aiding search and rescue missions over both land and water.
- Searching for evidence over large areas or in difficult-to-access areas of a crime scene, such as inside tunnels and under bridges.
- Monitoring hostage situations. For example, a drone is capable of capturing video through a window of a high-rise building or from above the roof of a building.
- Obtaining information about a hazardous material spill.
- Recording police activity during large-scale demonstrations and arrests.
- Tracking an armed suspect who has fled a crime scene, particularly when a car chase is unnecessarily risky.
- Providing live video feeds that can help police commanders manage emergency situations.
Drones have also been proven useful for fly-overs of multi-vehicle collisions, capturing images that can be used to reconstruct the chain of events.
Benefits of Drone Usage for Police and Civilians in Manhattan
Public safety agencies are discovering that drones have many possible uses and benefits. One obvious benefit is that drones can accomplish many of the same missions as helicopters but at a significantly lower cost.
Drones can also be used to protect officers in dangerous situations, such as when they are pursuing a dangerous suspect or trying to locate an active shooter. A drone with an infrared camera can spot a person concealed by dense foliage or another form of cover and alert officers so that they do not step into a firing line.
Legal Pros and Cons of Drone Use in Brooklyn and Queens
The NYPD has assured the public that the drones will not be equipped with weapons or be used as a weapon against civilians. The department has further stated that the drones will not be used for traffic law enforcement, during routine patrols of the city, or for warrantless surveillance.
Despite such assurances, many people fear that the police will use drones to violate people’s civil rights, such as the Fourth Amendment right to be secure against unreasonable searches of one’s person and house. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) points out that because drones are so small, they can easily sneak into a person’s garage or peer inside a window from just a few feet away.
On the other hand, defense attorneys may be able to use drone recordings to counter witness testimony in court. Because witness recollections are notoriously unreliable, video footage can sometimes help to exonerate an innocent person.
Manhattan Criminal Lawyers to Protect Your Rights
If you are charged with a crime in New York City, audiovisual recordings can be crucial to your defense. Because recordings are typically saved for only a short time, legal action must be taken quickly to preserve that evidence. Contact a Manhattan criminal defense attorney who will doggedly guard your legal rights and freedom. The distinguished attorneys at Watford Jackson, PLLC have over 45 combined years of experience in criminal defense in New York City. Call our Manhattan office at 855-WAT-JACK or 855-928-5225 to schedule an appointment.