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NYPD deploys drones to track subway surfers -- air superiority helps cops nab 12-year-old

Evan Simko-Bednarski, New York Daily News on

Published in News & Features

NYPD air superiority is fighting subway surfing — and the top transit cop says its drone program has nabbed four surfers, including a 12-year-old.

Drones are being deployed to spot people who climb on top of subway trains on elevated lines, said NYPD transit chief Michael Kemper.

“Over the last several weeks the NYPD has been piloting a drone program that deploys drones near subway lines where we’ve seen very concerning and reckless acts of subway surfing,” Kemper told the MTA’s board.

In that time, Kemper said, the drone program has helped the department stop four subway surfers.

The youngest of the four — stopped by police a week ago — was 12 years old.

“With our team’s work, hopefully this 12-year-old will not subway-surf anymore, and will live to see the age of 13,” Kemper said.

The transit chief did not go into details as to which lines were being monitored from above, or how many drones the department was using. MTA officials have previously singled out the No. 7, J, M and Z lines as hotbeds of subway surfing.

Subway surfing — in which a person tries to ride on the roof of a moving subway car — has been a deadly scourge in recent years, taking off last year when 928 people were found riding outside a subway car.


Five people, all teenagers, have died so far this year in suspected subway surfing incidents.

The upswing in incidents launched a public service campaign by the MTA, alongside an NYPD effort to visit with the families of teens busted for surfing.

NYPD has made 114 juvenile arrests for subway surfing this year, up from 50 last year.

“Our efforts seem to be paying off,” the transit chief said. “I’m happy to report that we have started the school year with no surfing related injuries or fatalities.”

“I don’t want to jinx it, and knock on wood as I say this — the last fatality we had was in June,” Kemper said.


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