Police departments across the country are resorting to the use of drone surveillance to enforce social distancing in both public and private spaces during statewide shelter-in-place orders.
New footage shot by MSNBC shows police in Elizabeth, New Jersey using drones to look for people not social distancing in areas their patrol cars cannot access.
“The drones make it easier for people to see into certain areas where access by patrol car is more difficult,” Rehema Ellis, an NBC news correspondent said. “That includes tight spaces between buildings, behind schools, and in backyards.”
Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage told MSNBC that cities need to get creative, and defended the intrusive tactic as potentially saving lives.
“If these drones save one life, it is clearly worth the activity and the information the drones are sending,” the mayor said.
Insane. Police are using drones to enforce social distancing by spying on Americans in their backyards. Police chief says invasion of privacy is worth it “if it saves one life.” At a certain point even the most obsequious bootlickers will have had enough
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) April 20, 2020
Chinese company Da Jiang Innovations, the world’s largest maker of drones, has donated drones to 43 law enforcement agencies operating in 22 U.S. states to enforce social distancing rules.
Police in Elizabeth, N.J., for example, are using the drones to surveil residents in places where patrol cars can’t easily reach, such as spaces between buildings and back yards.
“If these drones save one life, it is clearly worth the activity and the information that the drones are sending,” Elizabeth mayor Chris Bollwage told MSNBC.
In 2017, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned in a memo that DJI was “selectively targeting government and privately owned entities within these sectors to expand its ability to collect and exploit sensitive U.S. data.”
The Interior Department in 2019 grounded its entire fleet of DJI-manufactured drones, which had been used to surveil U.S. land, due to concerns that China was using the drones to gather data on critical U.S. infrastructure.
DJI has asserted that concerns about its drones are groundless.