The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office unveiled its latest piece of crime-fighting equipment Wednesday morning when it showed off the new Skywatch Mobile Observation Tower to the media.
The more than $143,000 tower and related equipment was purchased through a grant from the Federal Department of Homeland Security through the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management.
Karen Blevins, coordinator of the Jefferson County Office of Emergency Management, said Wednesday the sheriff’s office competed against other law enforcement agencies who also applied for the federal grant from the Department of Homeland Security.
“Our sheriff’s department was able to win it,” Blevins said.
Sheriff’s office operations commander and public information officer Major Lafayette Woods Jr. described the equipment as a mobile surveillance tower that will provide a more than 25-foot-high observation platform — roughly three stories — and can be towed almost anywhere it’s needed.
“This thing has a two-man cabin with heating, air conditioning, cameras, infrared cameras, imaging system and a public address system,” Woods said.
The tower uses a 100-gallon diesel tank and Woods said it could be operated for five straight days if needed without refueling.
Among other things, Woods said the tower will be used during events when large crowds are present, such as the Southeast Arkansas Fair and rodeo, parades and athletic events, and for natural disasters, and for additional security for VIP/dignitary protection.
“We also plan to take it to other areas of the county during the year for crime prevention projects and to assist with things going on outside Pine Bluff,” Woods said.
As a part of the federal agreement, the sheriff’s office can also make the mobile tower available to other counties across the state to help with emergency situations or large scale events they might be conducting, Blevins said.
The sheriff’s office took delivery of the surveillance tower at the end of last week, Woods said.
On Monday, the Jefferson County Quorum Court approved an appropriation ordinance to pay for the surveillance tower using the federal grant funds.