An AMNew York article delves into the neighborhood and tactical thoughts behind NYPD sky watch towers. The towers have four digital cameras, a spotlight, and a place for a cop to observe what's happening from two stories above the sidewalk. Reaction to the sky watches has been mixed.
Crown Heights Community Board 10 chairman Emil Clark said, "People that had been living in the neighborhood forever were concerned that maybe this was for the people who were moving in, to protect them. They were like, 'Why didn't you all put this in here two years ago, when people were killing each other?' And I don't know if it deters crime. If you have a criminal mind, you just move down the block." But a restaurant owner said the Crown Heights tower is useful: "That corner is a problem area -- there's a lot of shooting, drug trafficking. I'd like to have sidewalk seating, and having the tower makes it a lot easier."
The NYPD claims the placement of towers does not correlate with new luxury condos popping up the neighborhoods and hope to have a total of five which would rotate neighborhoods (they've been in Harlem, the Upper East Side, Shea Stadium, and Queens besides Crown Heights).
Razor Apple has a graphic of how the sky watch collapses for transport (lasers not included). If you're interested in the perspective of an NYPD cop walking a beat in a troubled area, check out the book Blue Blood. And ICX Tactical Platforms, which makes the towers, also makes similar units for border patrol.
Photograph of a sky watch tower in Brooklyn by ranjit on Flickr