Police in New York City have added another use case to their expanding deployment of drones: dissuading people from recurring rooftop “subway surfing” activity that has resulted in deaths and serious injuries this year.
Bored city kids have for centuries been finding ways to use the landscape, infrastructure, and even vehicles they come across in daily life to have fun or entertain themselves. Even the more extreme forms of thrill-seeking like currently surging subway surfing have been around for many decades. But aware of the limited results of traditional prevention methods – which usually boil down to spotting offenders atop trains and chasing them once they come down to escape – New York police are now breaking out their drones for what they hope is both a higher-tech and more effective approach to stopping the activity.
According to a report by New York television station WABC-TV, municipal police began using their drones in October to take video of youths spotted surfing atop subway system trains. But rather than using those captured visuals as evidence in prosecution cases, the cops are putting it to a potentially more effective type of behavior reform effort.
They’re showing it to the understandably horrified parents of the kids filmed running, dancing, and prancing around the tops of speeding trains. Those aren’t the kinds of “Hi, Mom” shots elders are happy to see.
“How many times have you interviewed moms and dads who say, ‘My kid would never do something like that’,” said New York Police Department Assistant Commissioner Kaz Daughtry of the new drone approach to subway surfing prevention. “Guess what: The video doesn’t lie.”
Relying on parents to scare their subway surfing spawn straight using video is certainly worth trying – and possibly even acceptable to the civil liberties and privacy advocates who have protested increased police use of drones in New York. The reason: the illegal activity has become too frequent, and often tragic of an occurrence to quibble over.
At least five young people have died from accidents incurred while subway surfing this year – equaling the total number between 2018 and 2022 – and several others have been gravely injured from falls. According to the Metropolitan Transit Authority, there have been “over 450 instances of people riding outside of trains between January and June in 2023,” and possibly as many as 630.
Soaring to new heights, together.
Be sure to visit the BWU Technology Partnerships Initiative website to learn more about how our NEOFIX program drives economic growth, promotes policy and infrastructure to improve drone safety and efficiency in various industries, and ensures that drone technology is being used responsibly.