Understanding the Scope of Police Surveillance in Brooklyn Through Public Defender Data

Project Sponsor


The NYPD owns and operates a vast network of surveillance technology, but its scope and extent has been difficult to discern from what few public disclosures they have made about these technologies. As public defenders, we have data that can be used to quantify and analyze the scope of police surveillance. This capstone project will be a unique opportunity for students to use this data to provide policymakers, impacted communities, and the public at large with much-needed information about how surveillance technology impacts different communities across Brooklyn.

Category: Urban Infrastructure

Project Description & Overview

This analysis will allow BDS and the capstone project team to quantify the burdens imposed on an area by surveillance using a score that can be assigned to different neighborhoods based on how frequently the use of surveillance is observed there. BDS will provide the capstone project team with a database of surveillance technologies that details times and places where surveillance was used across Brooklyn, as well as the type of technology used.

This project will involve synthesis of our data with public datasets that speak to surveillance technology more broadly to understand when and where surveillance is used. These observations will be combined with census data to understand the communities impacted by surveillance. The research will provide an overview of both the breadth and depth of each of the technologies analyzed, incorporating spatial analysis to understand their use and distribution within Brooklyn. Presenting the results as an interactive map will draw on GIS techniques and cartography; interpreting the results for the public and policymakers will involve students’ knowledge of civil rights and public policy.


BDS’s technology database is distilled from data about more than 25,000 cases, and has information about the prevalence of 36 different technologies used by the NYPD, classified and categorized using natural language processing. The specific technologies analyzed include, but are not limited to: surveillance cameras, license plate readers, gunshot detectors, facial recognition, thermographic cameras, cell-site simulators, and body-worn cameras.

Public datasets, like Amnesty International’s crowdsourced dataset of surveillance camera locations and the NYPD’s own disclosures about surveillance technologies, will provide additional context for our own observations. Census data will be used to identify key demographic information about the neighborhoods affected by police surveillance.


– GIS & Spatial analysis
– Quantitative Research
– Statistical programming (R, Python, etc)
– Data Visualization & Cartography
– Privacy & Civil Rights
– Public Policy & Law

Learning Outcomes & Deliverables

– A metric that quantifies the intensity of surveillance that can be used to identify the most and least impacted communities across Brooklyn
– Interactive map of Brooklyn displaying impact of surveillance on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis
– Website with key analysis takeaways to inform the public and policymakers about the scope and intensity of police surveillance