Guards in the new white Skywatch Tower patrol North Campus parking lots with a birds eye view.
From thirty feet in the air, public safety can monitor many parking lots as well as athletic fields. Officials say the manned mobile surveillance tower allows public safety to better watch for illegal activity that might be taking place on campus grounds. They’re especially concerned with car thefts and fights.
During the 2013-14 academic year, incidents at North Campus included stolen vehicle, drug law violations and one aggravated assault. The incidents took place in Lots 3,4,7,9,11,13,14 and 15.
“We want everyone to feel safe on Campus,” said North Campus Public Safety Chief James Dobson. “We also want to let students know that we are watching everything that happens on campus from the tower, cameras or patrol.”
The Skywatch Tower was brought to North Campus in July 2014 and is currently the only security tower college-wide. The manufacturer, FLIR, sells two versions of their surveillance vehicles to malls, police and event organizers around the country.
The $80,000 trailer, set on four wheels and with a crane-like arm, will be relocated around North Campus’ parking lots to patrol. It weighs 10,000 pounds and operates on 20 gallons of regular car fuel. The tower can hold a maximum weight capacity of 500 pounds.
The inside of the tower includes an air conditioning system, heater, gas meter, wind speedometer, controls, knobs to turn the towers, spotlights and a chair for public safety officers while on watch.
On the outside of the tower, there are four loudspeakers in which the public safety officer can call out to any suspicious behavior. They can also have them sound as police sirens. The tower includes blue strobe lights on each side of the tower, flood lights to strongly light up the surrounding area from all sides of the tower and reflectors that project Miami Dade College’s safety badge. The tower has spotlights on the outside so they can be used to view inside vehicles. When the wind speed reaches 45 mph, public safety personnel have to exit the tower.
The School of Justice will also use the tower as a teaching tool. Students and instructors will use the tower for police officer and private security training purposes.
“Students will utilize the tower as an observation post in parking lots of malls, apartment buildings, and special events,” said Raimundo Socorro Director of the School of Justice. “There they can identify individuals scouting the area to commit crimes.”
Instructors will also use the tower to observe recruits to identify a student’s strengths and weaknesses. Students will use it to observe instructors.
Several orange safety cones surround the tower, taking up about six parking spaces.
“There might be another tower on campus in the future,” said North Campus Assistant Public Safety Chief, Stephanie Fernandez.
Student Ana Millan said the Skywatch Tower makes her feel safer and gives her the impression that nothing bad will happen to her car.
“The tower has been here now for approximately five weeks, I would have to say yes it’s been a great [crime] deterrent,” Dobson said.