Here’s a surprise gift from your dear friends at the NYPD: a “GAME TRUCK,” containing video game consoles, as spotted by WNYC/Gothamist reporter Gwynne Hogan. Take a look at this bad boy, expanding police presence throughout the city. Fun cop summer!
Soon after Hogan’s image went around, exciting rumors of a seperate Shrek-themed bus swirled...
...but alas, the identical setting, angle, and pixelated seams give it away. An errant Black Panther foot only raises suspicion.
The “GAME TRUCK” moniker is a bald-faced cover-up. This is a trailer, and they admitted it.
In any case, the citywide pleasure bunkers raise some questions. Maybe the NYPD is pivoting from a surveillance operation that slams teens against walls and lies about hitting them with a car to a mobile Dave & Buster’s. But why…
When we asked the NYPD about the purpose of the truck spectacular, how many they’ve stationed, when, and where, they replied: “We anticipate releasing information in the near future.”
We do know that Vice’s Jason Koebler confirmed that one truck appeared in the East River Park in Manhattan, adjacent to several New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) buildings, this weekend. (Gizmodo editor Rhett Jones also confirmed spotting an Avengers-themed truck in Bushwick recently.)
More definitively, last month, the NYPD’s Community Affairs Bureau—a department which “provides young people with enrichment, diversion, and intervention programs”—confirmed on Twitter that it received funding from the New York City Police Foundation to foot the project. They displayed the interior of a truck containing PS5s, XBoxes, and Nintendo Switches, with plush gaming chairs and blue party lighting. “We’re coming out to your block, we’re coming out to your neighborhood,” Chief of Community Affairs Jeffrey B. Maddrey announced, forebodingly. “This is going to be our great way to connect with our communities, our young people, our families.”
Perhaps. New York City-based public defender Eliza Orlins has a different theory. “Do not get in this truck. Period,” Orlins advised followers and elaborated in an Instagram caption:
Over-surveillance is already a huge problem and the police will use any methods available to them.
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.
In a DM exchange on Twitter, Orlins pointed Gizmodo to a case in which New York City detectives handed a 12-year-old boy a soda in order to collect his DNA from the straw to attempt to match it with evidence from a felony crime. As of June 1st, the city kept 52,807 samples of DNA associated with crime scene evidence and 28,660 genetic profiles of “people of interest.”
Similar efforts have also revealed ulterior motives, civil rights attorney and former public defender Jeffrey Stein told Gizmodo. “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,” he said.
“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. “Far too many communities in New York are in desperate need of more social workers, school psychologists, teachers and career counselors—not more police officers playing video games.”
If you’re still tempted by the siren song of Mario Kart 8, a senior counsel for Brooklyn Defender Services, which represents around 35,000 people per year, professionally advises not to go anywhere near this thing. “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.”
No doubt, underserved kids need more resources, such as protection from brain-damaging lead exposure. NYCHA residents aren’t seeing cash, but cops are allegedly getting funding to patrol their hallways and illegally arrest people without probable cause. Maybe the New York City Police Foundation could start advancing its goal of “building relationships between the NYPD and community members” by asking cops to pass out some consoles while they’re trawling the halls.
It’s unclear how much the NYC Police Foundation has shelled out for these, but between 2019 and 2020, it gave the NYPD nearly $11 million for programs. This year, the NYPD has already gotten around $365 million from the city for community outreach, education, and social services programs, out of its $5.64 billion budget.
The city allocates $598.3 million, in total, to the Department of Youth and Community Development, which covers a swath of services including adult literacy, community centers, after school programs, and support for youth experiencing homelessness.