New portable elevated tower help Lakeland Police deter crime with fewer officers

Skywatch Tower bought with drug forfeiture funds.

LAKELAND, Fla. - People in Lakeland are talking about the tower.

"What is the big police thing?" asked Lisa Moody as she pulled out of the Target parking lot on US 98.

"It's kind of scary actually," said Christie Dion, loading her baby into the car at Target.

It's the SkyWatch Tower; the latest tool to help Lakeland Police fight crime.

"It's huge, it's very visible. People can see it from a long way away," Lt. Al Wilson of Lakeland Police Department said.

The twenty five foot tall portable tower allows police to monitor a large area from one elevated vantage point.

"We can actually do surveillance up here, do observation up here with one person rather than using six police officers on the ground," explained Wilson.

Equipped with a camera and heavily tinted windows, the SkyWatch Tower will move around Lakeland as needed.

"If we see an area where we see an increase in vehicle burglaries or other crimes, we're going to move this tower to that area," said Wilson.

The nearly $90,000 SkyWatch Tower was paid for with drug forfeiture funds. For now, it stands watch in the Target parking lot on US 98.  

And for shoppers like Sandy Duhow who know they're vulnerable when they load their car, the tower is a welcome sight.

"I think it's great.  It protects me, her, my daughter.  I like it," Duhow explained.  

And as the holiday shopping season picks up, police know the criminals will take notice.

"It serves as a deterrent.  Because no one really knows when there is someone inside of that machine," Wilson said.

Dion feels like the mere presence of the tower will have an impact.

"I think it would stop people from stealing something, or think twice about what they're doing before they do it. So I think it's a good deterrent actually," she said.

Lakeland Police say the SkyWatch Tower can also be used for traffic enforcement when needed.

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