Eye in the sky protects Clearwater shoppers - WFLA News Channel 8

Eye in the sky protects Clearwater shoppers

Posted: Updated:
Police will monitor the Countryside Mall parking lot in an observation tower called SkyWatch. Police will monitor the Countryside Mall parking lot in an observation tower called SkyWatch.
"We get views in both directions from the south side of the mall," said Pinellas County Sheriff's Office Public Information Coordinator Cecilia Barreda. "We get views in both directions from the south side of the mall," said Pinellas County Sheriff's Office Public Information Coordinator Cecilia Barreda.
Police will monitor the Countryside Mall parking lot in an observation tower called SkyWatch. Police will monitor the Countryside Mall parking lot in an observation tower called SkyWatch.
While many stores expect to do most of their business during the holiday season, many thieves and burglars have the same idea.

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office and Clearwater Police Department are joining forces to head off trouble in parking lots.

They've created an extra line of protection against thieves
at the Westfield Countryside Mall in Clearwater, and that protection comes from above.

It's called SkyWatch, an observation tower designed to stop a crime dead in its tracks.

From inside the two-story surveillance tower, law enforcement can check out any suspicious activity in the Westfield Countryside Mall parking lot.

Related: Smaller Black Friday crowds at Brandon Mall thanks to Thanksgiving shoppers

"It offers an aerial observation and surveillance. We can look in parking lots to look for car burglars," said Cpl. Erne Armistead of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office's Special Services Division.

The tower is equipped with cameras and computers. Facial recognition experts are just an email and a click away.

SkyWatch is a $120,000 piece of equipment that the sheriff's office obtained it from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

From up high, the tower provides law enforcement with a 360-degree view.

"I think it's cool that they're up that high like that so they can see everything, normally they patrol, but I don't know how they can really see, patrolling," shopper Vicki Tritch said.

SkyWatch is set up on the south side of the mall. It does however, have its limitations.

"We can't see on the other side, but currently there are police officers throughout the area. At least we get views in both directions from the south side of the mall," said Pinellas County Sheriff's Office Public Information Coordinator Cecilia Barreda.

Some businesses expect to do 40 percent of their annual sales between Black Friday weekend and the end of the year.

That means thieves will be watching shoppers like Mike Whitmer, who didn't mind the idea of being watched by law enforcement.

"I would say that's pretty cool, because I would assume I'm being watched anyway," Whitmer said.

SkyWatch is not only meant to catch, but also dissuade potential thieves.

"Hopefully the goal is to serve as a deterrent. If they see it, hopefully we will stop anyone who has an interest in trying to break into a vehicle or any criminal activity to stop it in its tracks," Barreda said.

SkyWatch will be at the Westfield Countryside Mall through Saturday.

However, after 5 p.m. and later, when much of the crime occurs, it won't be operational.

Clearwater Police contend they will have a continued presence at the mall during the holiday season.

They do want to remind everyone that not leaving anything of value in your vehicles will help prevent your holiday gifts from becoming someone's holiday heist.

Sign up for free breaking news and headline email alerts

  • 8 On Your SideMore>>

  • Bradenton apartment complex to be repaired after 8 On Your Side report

    Bradenton apartment complex to be repaired after 8 On Your Side report

    Friday, August 22 2014 4:47 PM EDT2014-08-22 20:47:05 GMT
    Last week, 8 on your side showed you some of the dilapidated conditions inside some units at the Townhouse Park Apartments in Bradenton.Tenants were having problems with mold and rodents.There was also water damage.
    Last week, 8 on your side showed you some of the dilapidated conditions inside some units at the Townhouse Park Apartments in Bradenton.Tenants were having problems with mold and rodents.There was also water damage.
  • 2.2 million bean bag chairs recalled after deaths

    2.2 million bean bag chairs recalled after deaths

    Friday, August 22 2014 11:01 AM EDT2014-08-22 15:01:24 GMT
    About 2.2 million bean bag chairs are being recalled after two children opened them, crawled inside and suffocated to death. CPSC photoAbout 2.2 million bean bag chairs are being recalled after two children opened them, crawled inside and suffocated to death. CPSC photo
    About 2.2 million bean bag chairs are being recalled after two children opened them, crawled inside and suffocated to death.
    About 2.2 million bean bag chairs are being recalled after two children opened them, crawled inside and suffocated to death.
  • TPD claims training stories fell short

    TPD claims training stories fell short

    Thursday, August 21 2014 5:12 PM EDT2014-08-21 21:12:02 GMT
    The Tampa police department is responding to an 8 On Your Side investigation into a January shooting.The police contend the reports were incomplete and contained errors.The stories focused on a January 9th police shooting in Tampa and the lack of crisis intervention team training at T.P.D.
    The Tampa police department is responding to an 8 On Your Side investigation into a January shooting.The police contend the reports were incomplete and contained errors.The stories focused on a January 9th police shooting in Tampa and the lack of crisis intervention team training at T.P.D.
  • NewsMore>>

  • Crash closes I-75 NB in Manatee County

    Crash closes I-75 NB in Manatee County

    Friday, August 22 2014 5:39 PM EDT2014-08-22 21:39:17 GMT
    Deadly crash in Manatee County.Deadly crash in Manatee County.
    There is a deadly accident on Northbound I-75 in Manatee County right now.The crash involves a tanker truck and multiple other vehicles. All Northbound lanes on I-75 near Ellenton are closed right now,
    There is a deadly accident on Northbound I-75 in Manatee County right now.The crash involves a tanker truck and multiple other vehicles. All Northbound lanes on I-75 near Ellenton are closed right now,
  • Manatee school cleavage controversy?

    Manatee school cleavage controversy?

    Friday, August 22 2014 5:31 PM EDT2014-08-22 21:31:14 GMT
    A Braden River High School students says she was called out for a "wardrobe malfunction" in front of her classmates.A Braden River High School students says she was called out for a "wardrobe malfunction" in front of her classmates.
    What's causing all the controversy with this photo? A Braden River High School student says she was humiliated, embarrassed, and horrified on the first day of school after she was called out for a "wardrobe malfunction" in front of her classmates.
    What's causing all the controversy with this photo? A Braden River High School student says she was humiliated, embarrassed, and horrified on the first day of school after she was called out for a "wardrobe malfunction" in front of her classmates.
  • Hernando Sheriff's office has new K-9 deputy

    Hernando Sheriff's office has new K-9 deputy

    Friday, August 22 2014 5:02 PM EDT2014-08-22 21:02:07 GMT
    Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuisannounced Friday that the Hernando County Sheriff's Office has a brand new deputy."K-9 Justice" is a 14-month old German Shepherd and will be joining the K-9 unit. Corporal Stephen Miller, K-9 Unit Supervisor, will be his handler.
    Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuisannounced Friday that the Hernando County Sheriff's Office has a brand new deputy."K-9 Justice" is a 14-month old German Shepherd and will be joining the K-9 unit. Corporal Stephen Miller, K-9 Unit Supervisor, will be his handler.
  • Sign up for WFLA News Channel 8 Email Alerts

    * denotes required fields






    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Haircuts for the Homeless

    Haircuts for the Homeless

    Wednesday, August 20 2014 11:38 AM EDT2014-08-20 15:38:55 GMT
    On his days off, stylist Mark Bustos gives free haircuts to the homeless of New York City. Here are some of the transformations.
    On his days off, stylist Mark Bustos gives free haircuts to the homeless of New York City. Here are some of the transformations.
  • 59 Arrested By Greenville Police In Latest Prostitution Sting

    59 Arrested By Greenville Police In Latest Prostitution Sting

    Tuesday, August 19 2014 9:30 PM EDT2014-08-20 01:30:28 GMT
    Greenville Police released information Tuesday that 59 people were arrested in a four day long prostitution sting.
    Greenville Police released information Tuesday that 59 people were arrested in a four day long prostitution sting.
  • 2.2 million bean bag chairs recalled after deaths

    2.2 million bean bag chairs recalled after deaths

    Friday, August 22 2014 11:01 AM EDT2014-08-22 15:01:24 GMT
    About 2.2 million bean bag chairs are being recalled after two children opened them, crawled inside and suffocated to death. CPSC photoAbout 2.2 million bean bag chairs are being recalled after two children opened them, crawled inside and suffocated to death. CPSC photo
    About 2.2 million bean bag chairs are being recalled after two children opened them, crawled inside and suffocated to death.
    About 2.2 million bean bag chairs are being recalled after two children opened them, crawled inside and suffocated to death.
Powered by WorldNow

200 South Parker Street, Tampa, FL 33606

Telephone: 813.228.8888
Fax: 813.225.2770
Email: news@wfla.com

Can’t find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.