Inside the City Policed by Machines

Inside the City Policed by Machines 1

Hi! I’m Dhruv Mehrotra, a reporter on the Security desk. I’m taking over the newsletter this week to tell you about the first and largest police drone operation in the country. It’s a trend in policing that could hit the skies over your streets soon.

Since 2018, police in a border city in California called Chula Vista have been dispatching drones to investigate thousands of 911 calls. The drones are equipped with high-resolution cameras and powerful zoom lenses, recording everything in their path. They routinely fly over back yards, public pools, schools, hospitals, mosques, and even Planned Parenthood, in the process amassing hundreds of hours of footage above residents who have nothing to do with a crime.

The department says that its drones provide officers with critical intelligence about incidents they are responding to—which the CVPD says has reduced unnecessary police work, decreased response times, and saved lives.

But on the ground, things are a bit more complicated. Let’s talk about it.

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