Vancouver police combat crime with military tool - KPTV - FOX 12

Vancouver police combat crime with military tool

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On any given day or night – someone like Paula Person may be perched high above a parking lot in an observation tower.

"We call it Sky Watch," said Person. "It goes 25 feet in the air. It has a heater and air conditioner. It has bulletproof glass. That's a good thing, right?"

It's a good thing for the more than 100 volunteers in the Neighbors On Watch program.

"We're watching for maybe a chase or a car prowl, a broken window, somebody acting suspiciously," said Person. "We, in turn, then can call 911 or call our base radio and get the police department to come out and check on it."

The Vancouver Police Department uses Sky Watch to observe crowds during large gatherings or in areas with a high density of cars – like the mall over Christmas.

"(We also use it in) other areas where our crime analyst may tell the neighborhood police officer that we're starting to see a kind of a rise in this particular type of crime, and we will bring it down simply as a deterrent," Cpl. Duane Boynton with Vancouver police said.

Boynton said it's effective wherever it goes, regardless of whether someone is actually inside.

"We actually had a problem along the waterfront a little over a year ago where we were getting vehicle prowls every single night," said Boynton. "We brought down Sky Watch, had our NOW volunteers down, and the very first night that it was down, it ended. We didn't have any more (crime) - zero."

The tower was a military surplus item used in Operation Iraqi Freedom. It's been put to use here at home since 2009 and will likely be around for years to come.

"We actually enjoy being out there and looking and watching and contributing and preventing crime and just helping our community," Person said.

Police said they got the tower at a fraction of the price – $14,000 – most of which was the shipping cost.

They said a new one would cost $150,000.

Neighbors On Watch is accepting applications for new members.

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