Tammy Mutasa, Mesquite Reporter
The Mesquite Police Department say when SkyWatch towers, manned by volunteers, go up in retail areas they've seen crime drop dramatically.
The Mesquite Police Department says when SkyWatch towers go up, crimes reported in areas like retail parking lots go way down.
"We had no vehicles stolen and no vehicle break in’s within about a 500-foot radius everywhere we put our SkyWatch towers up. So that is extremely effective,” said Lt. Bill Hedgpeth, of the Mesquite Police Department.
Mesquite police said last holiday season, from Thanksgiving to Christmas, there were no reported car crimes every time the SkyWatch tower was up and manned.
Barbara Dunn and JD Barker are the eyes in the sky. Instead of police officers manning the towers, volunteers are perched up about 20 feet up.
"There is no fear of working up there except those who are afraid of heights," said Dunn. She has been a Mesquite Citizen Police Volunteer for 11 years.
The volunteers saved the department $136,000 in the time they spent working on police programs like the SkyWatch tower program.
Mesquite's two SkyWatch towers are funded with money seized from criminals like drug dealers.
"If the courts feel it's appropriate, then they will give that money back to the police department so we can reinvest it in programs that help us prevent crime and catch bad guys," said Hedgpeth.
"You have a new heartfelt appreciation for the effort they put into what they do," said volunteer J.D. Barker.
Barker said he noticed more people parking closer to the watch tower whenever it is up.
In order to help man the SkyWatch towers, volunteers must first attend the Mesquite Police Department's Citizen Police Academy, a 36-hour program that consists of 3-hour classes, one night a week for 12 weeks.
The next class starts in September 2012.