NORMAN — Police hope to use a newly acquired Skywatch mobile observation tower to deter crime during the holiday shopping season.
The tower provides a 25-foot-high observation platform, which can be manned by two officers with binoculars and radios who can get a bird's-eye view of high-traffic shopping areas often targeted by thieves, said Capt. Mike Praizner.
The observation tower can be towed and parked in parking lots at malls or large department stores or wherever a police presence is needed, he said.
“Just its presence in a parking lot will deter thieves, we believe,” Praizner said.
The holiday season typically is a time when more car burglaries and shoplifting incidents occur, he said.
The Skywatch tower will be used for the first time on Black Friday in the Sooner Mall parking lot, Praizner said.
A new Skywatch tower retails for about $96,000, but the agency located a slightly used “military surplus” one that was available for $7,500, including the cost of a new paint job, Capt. Tom Easley said.
Easley said Homeland Security federal grant money was used to pay for it.
“We got a smokin' hot deal on it,” Praizner said. “We feel really lucky to have found it. We see it as a crime-prevention tool. It gives us visibility and a presence in large-crowd type situations. It will allow us to respond quicker to problems than if we were just walking through a crowd.”
The tower will be used to monitor traffic and crowds in high-crime shopping areas and also at football games, festivals and other big events, Praizner said.
“You'll be seeing it a lot throughout the holiday shopping season at Sooner Mall, Ed Noble Parkway or sometimes in Walmart's parking lots,” he said.
The tower originally was used by the U.S. Border Patrol in El Paso, Texas.
“All we had to do was go get it,” Easley said. “We did have it checked out to make sure it was in working order. We bought new tires for it and repainted it. Now it's ready to go.”