Home Politics Inside the city guarded by machines

Inside the city guarded by machines

0 comment
Inside the city guarded by machines

Hello! I am Dhruv Mehrotra, a reporter from the Security desk. I’ll be taking over the newsletter this week to tell you about the country’s first and largest police drone operation. It is a police trend that could soon reach the skies of its streets.

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

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

But on the ground things are a little more complicated. Let’s talk about that.

This is an edition of the WIRED Politics Lab newsletter. Sign up now to receive it in your inbox every week.

Politics has never been stranger or more online. WIRED Policy Lab is your guide through the vortex of extremism, conspiracies and misinformation.

Eyes in the sky over Chula Vista

In October 2018, Chula Vista made headlines by becoming the first city in the country to launch a “Drone as a First Responder” (DFR) program. Here’s how it works: Teleoperators listen to live 911 calls and decide when and where to send the department’s growing fleet of drones. Since then, spotting drones has become commonplace for residents. Crossing the skies of Chula Vista nearly 20,000 times in total, they are often the first to arrive at the scenes of noise complaints, car accidents, overdoses, domestic disputes and even homicides.

At best, DFR programs provide officers with intelligence before initiating potentially deadly in-person contact. Many residents say the drones make them feel safer. Others, however, particularly Chula Vista’s most vulnerable citizens, feel like they are always being watched.

And they are not entirely wrong.

We analyzed 22 million coordinates from drone flights to determine where exactly the drones were sent and why. We calculated the exact number of seconds the drones spent in the skies over each city block and found a marked pattern: the poorer the neighborhood, the more exposed residents were to the drones. Residents of a typical block on the west side of Chula Vista, working class and largely immigrant, had drones in the sky above 10 times longer than a resident of a typical east side block.

Some residents of these neighborhoods told WIRED that they feel constantly watched. Some are afraid to spend time in their backyards or use public spaces, for fear of being spied on. One resident showed us his medical history and said the drones tormented him so much that he ended up in the emergency room with severe anxiety and lack of sleep.

You may also like