The New York Police Department (NYPD) recently unveiled their latest neighborhood propaganda tool — a government-sponsored gaming trailer. Or is it a surveillance trailer?
Four years ago, when I wrote an article about police department ice cream trucks I thought only kids would be fooled by them. I didn’t think tone-deaf police departments would come up with another disturbing PR move portraying them as ‘officer friendly’ to minorities.
The ways law enforcement can use a gaming trailer to indoctrinate our youth are too many to list here. But as Gizmodo points out, the ways police can use a gaming trailer to secretly collect kids’ personal information are frightening.
When police ply kids with PS5s, XBoxes, Nintendo Switches, plush gaming chairs and blue party lights, one has to ask: why?
Which is what New York City-based public defender Eliza Orlins did.
“As a public defender, I’ve represented kids as young as 15 whose DNA was surreptitiously collected by NYPD, like from a can of soda, a used straw, or a bag of chips — items often offered by cops to the children. The last thing they need to be doing is voluntarily entering cop vans.”
Senior counsel for Brooklyn Defender Services MK Kaishian warned:
“As a criminal defense attorney, I would advise every young person to stay away from the Police Foundation’s so-called game truck, a mobile surveillance arcade, for their safety and for the protection of their personal information,” MK Kaishian wrote to Gizmodo, pointing to DNA harvesting. “If this venture was really about providing harmless activities for young people to engage in, there would be no need for police involvement.”
And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg of the NYPD gaming trailer disaster.
As Amnesty International mentioned, the NYPD uses 15,000 CCTV facial recognition cameras to ID everyone. The odds are pretty high that the NYPD’s gaming van is equipped with them too.
“The NYPD has the ability to track people in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx by running images from 15,280 surveillance cameras. ‘This sprawling network of cameras can be used by police for invasive facial recognition and risk turning New York into an Orwellian surveillance city,’ says Matt Mahmoudi, Artificial Intelligence & Human Rights Researcher at Amnesty International.”
As the New York Times revealed, children as young as 11 years old have been added to the NYPD’s facial recognition database. So it is not hard to imagine police officers secretly IDing kids enticed into entering their gaming trailer.
Unfortunately, the NYPD’s surveillance of kids probably doesn’t stop with facial recognition.
The gaming trailer could also be equipped with IBM’s Intelligent video analytics software and Bluetooth readers that could identify a kid’s cellphone. The gaming trailer could also use Stingray’s to intercept cellphone phone calls and messages.
And if the NYPD uses the gaming trailer to secretly collect kids’ information, it is a sure bet that they are using it to monitor their social media posts as well.
Every gamer knows that most games require a player[s] to submit their account name and password which is linked to their personal information and credit history. By personal information, I mean their full name[s], addresses, age, etc. In other words, if you want to continue playing a game at your local police gaming trailer you need to give law enforcement all your personal information, making it easy to track kids across multiple gaming platforms.
It is not hard to imagine those police officers could also be collecting kids’ fingerprints off of soda cups and food wrappers left behind in the gaming trailer. And the gaming trailer could also be equipped with Iris recognition, making it easier for the NYPD to ID and young people.
The number of ways the NYPD can secretly use a gaming trailer to collect a kid’s personal information is appalling.
A police gaming trailer fly’s in the face of police violence and Black Lives Matter protests. A police gaming trailer is providing minority kids a false sense of safety and respect. It does nothing for real reform. These PR tactics are meant to mask how law enforcement has been destroying people’s lives for years.
“It’s not uncommon for police departments to engage in ‘community outreach’ tactics to groom informants, mine children for information about their family members and neighbors, and to otherwise normalize their presence in communities where the harm they cause rightfully generates fear and distrust,” civil rights attorney Jeffery Stein said.
Police gaming trailers cannot make up for decades of stopping & frisking thousands of innocent people or questioning residents in their own buildings (operation clean halls).
“Gaming buses are not going to reverse the death of Eric Garner or the dozens of people killed by NYPD officers since, remedy decades of racially discriminatory policing that continue into the present, or restore the thousands of families torn apart by mass incarceration,” Stein added.
Maybe the police are using gaming trailers and ice cream trucks to ID disaffected youths and enter their personal information into the National Counterterrorism Center’s “red book.” No amount of community outreach is going to change the fact that that the new War On Terror is just beginning.
The last thing America’s youth need is police surveillance trailers masquerading as gaming trailers.
This post was originally published at MassPrivateI.com.
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