Myrtle Beach police now have a mobile crowd-watch tower they believe will help them protect people during large events.
City police officers can now be about 25 feet above crowds in the new SkyWatch tower, maintaining surveillance and being a point of reference for anyone who needs assistance during any of the numerous large crowd events held annually, including biker rallies.
The tower cost about $140,000, according to Capt. Kevin Heins, who helped unveil it Friday.
Its inaugural use will be during this Labor Day holiday weekend at the 9th annual Beach, Boogie & BBQ Festival, at the Horry Georgetown Technical College Conference Center in The Market Common.
The SkyWatch is to help the department more effectively deal with large crowds, said Myrtle Beach police Lt. Doug Furlong.
Furlong said the SkyWatch could be used during events such as the annual Memorial Day holiday celebration, which this year turned violent. Three people died and seven were injured in eight shootings on Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach during Memorial Day weekend. Several thousand people were in town for the Atlantic Beach Bikefest, Military Appreciation Days or to take advantage of a three-day weekend at the beach.
In addition to lifting armed officers above crowds at large events, the mobile surveillance tower has cameras that include night vision capabilities and video recording systems, Furlong said.
“The tower is deployed at a number of different events. It allows us to be able to get a better view of the entire area for the safety of everyone,” Furlong said. “It also gives someone the ability to see the tower if they need assistance. They can go to it to get help.”
Myrtle Beach police are one of the first departments in the area to use such a tower. The tower is made by Oregon-based FLIR Systems, a company that specialized in thermal imaging technologies when it began in 1978, according to the company’s website.
The tower is self-sustained, moves by hydraulic motion and is customized by each department with surveillance equipment.