Sky-high police tool at work on Beale

Beale Street photographer Jeffery Howard's backdrop reads "the number one spot in the world." It's something he says is not always the case on Southern Heritage Classic weekend.

"We've got stampeded for the last two years," says Howard.

He's happy to see Memphis Police rise to the occasion--literally.

"This right here is just another tactical way to make our citizens feel safe," says MPD Director Larry Godwin.

It's called the Skywatch Patrol Tower.

"We've been looking at and talking about the Skywatch for some time," says Godwin.

Able to hold two officers, police say its power equals dozens of eyes on the street. Skywatch rises above it 22 feet. In addition to infrared cameras, there are floodlights, a blue light, and audio devices able to hear you from 2/3rds of a mile away.

The cameras allow officers to zoom in for even greater detail, say on a suspect.

"And you can get a good description of them," says an officer inside.

The tower's presence is already making an impression on visitors--both good and bad.

"It gave me a sense of comfort," says one visitor.

"I don't like the fact that they can hear my conversation," says another.

Police say get used to it. They hope to have two towers by the end of the year. The current tower in use is a loaner. Memphis Police hope to pay for their own using federal grant money. They cost about $50,000 apiece. They'll put them on Beale every weekend, then transport them to other big events as needed.


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