Eyes in the sky: BU PD watches from above

The mobile SkyWatch machine can be transferred across campus and posted in parking lots.Courtesy Art
The mobile SkyWatch machine can be transferred across campus and posted in parking lots.
Courtesy Art
By Rebecca Flannery
Staff Writer

Baylor police officers have their eyes in the sky through the use of a SkyWatch surveillance system after repairs were made to cameras this week.

SkyWatch, manufactured by FLIR Systems Inc., is a mobile observation tower that can take officers 20 feet into the air and is utilized around the nation, according to the FLIR Systems website.

It was acquired by the police department at the start of the semester, said Baylor police chief Brad Wigtil. The recent repairs on the system will allow officers to monitor large events such as tailgating parties and recent basketball game parking, which promotes safety.

“With our successful football team and with the new stadium, we knew that crowds were going to be much larger,” Wigtil said. “We wanted to know what we could do to provide safety in those crowds and help the game day experience.”

Wigtil said he got the idea to pursue the use of a SkyWatch after seeing one in use at a mall in Garland. After suggesting the idea to Baylor’s administration, they supported the concept.

Wigtil said some of the benefits include increased visibility of crowded events as well as providing security in places where there may be a high number of thefts on campus.

“If I’m placed in a platform above everybody, I can see so much more than if I were on the ground,” Wigtil said. “It’s also a visible deterrent as well. People realize there are police monitoring the area by looking at it.”

Baylor police Sgt. Brent Howell is a frequenter of the raised platform. He said the camera system attached to the outside of the mechanism is able to record surveillance as well as pan, tilt and zoom into an area in a crowd for increased visibility.

Wigtil said Baylor is one of few universities to use the machine.

“The manufacturer of the machine said there are 160 police agencies in the nation employing the use of SkyWatch,” Wigtil said. “Of the 160, only about 10 universities have purchased it.”

More than helping with crime, Wigtil said SkyWatch aids the officers when directing traffic and making sure the ebb and flow of crowds is functioning properly.

“It’s choreographed,” Wigtil said. “It’s very important that certain things happen at certain times. Sgt. Howell can watch for those things and make sure everything is going according to plan.”