The New York Police Department has introduced a new “game truck” earlier this month. The idea is to give local kids from low-income neighborhoods a chance to play video games. Although the police say they have good intentions, some people believe it’s just another method of mass surveillance.

The game truck made headlines last week, causing heated debate on the Internet. According to NYPD chief of community affairs Jeffrey Maddrey, the police wanted to make sure that “our young people have a safe summer, a safe space, and just know that the NYPD is here to support them.”

Kids who enter the game truck will be able to play games on Nintendo Switch, PS5, and Xbox Series S. Through this initiative, police officers want to connect with younger citizens.

However, it was met with mixed reactions online. Some people tried to warn kids to not enter this game truck, thinking that it’s a part of “over-surveillance.”

Public defender Eliza Orlins called the initiative “predatory,” writing that the last thing children “need to be doing is voluntarily entering cop vans.” “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,” she said.

 

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MaryAnne Kaishian, senior policy counsel with Brooklyn Defender Services, thinks that the police might be collecting fingerprints, DNA, and other data from kids who entered these game trucks.

Some people on the Internet tried to connect the initiative with the news about NYPD adding young kids to the facial recognition database.

On the other hand, former NYPD detective and a professor of law at New York Law School Kirk Burkhalter thinks that the police department had good intentions. “As an investigator, it would be far easier for me to go to your home and sift through your trash outside and grab a straw or a cup or a hairbrush and collect your DNA that way, than waiting for you to enter a game truck,” he said, according to Yahoo! News. “So I don’t think the purpose of the game truck at all is to just stockpile data on individuals.”

However, the level of mistrust seems to stay high, as a lot of locals and public defenders think that the kids using this game truck might face negative consequences.

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