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Sky watch will look out for shootings

Officers with the 49th Precinct are watching you from above.

But don’t start worrying about Big Brother — it’s for your own safety.

On Monday, June 21, the NYPD put up a roughly 75-foot patrol tower, known as Sky Watch, at the corner of Barker Avenue and Britton Street.

The Sky Watch facility includes spotlights, censors and cameras and will be manned 24 hours a day by police officers.

“It’s a patrol, it videotapes and it gives a presence for the police to try and prevent future crime in the location,” 49th Precinct Captain Kevin Nicholson said. “It’s in regards to a spike in violence in that location, and the police are trying to prevent future violence in that area.”

Although crime around the precinct has continued to rise, the tower was installed in direct response to the three homicides around Zimmerman Memorial Playground in the past four months, 49th Precinct Community Council president Joe Thompson said.

Police did not release information about the shooting because the investigations are ongoing, officials said.

Thompson said the precinct requested the crime-fighting tool from borough command after community members voiced their worries about the rising crime levels.

“It’s three of four stories high and it gives them a view of the entire area, so we’re hoping that curbs some of the violence that’s going on over there. This is a great deterrent,” Thompson said.

“This has always been a low-crime area, especially with serious crimes, except for this year. We’re up 100 percent from three to six, and four of those homicides happened over there, so we asked for the Sky Watch and they put it in.”

The Sky Watch, which can be raised and lowered like a cherry-picker, are made available to the precincts from the borough command by request and can be towed from precinct to precinct on an as-needed-basis.

Officials with the borough command did not disclose how many Sky Towers are operating throughout the Bronx.

Typically the units are used for about a month at a time, but because the use is based on need, there is no set time that the tower will remain in the area.

Precincts have been using the crime-fighting tool since 2006, when it was tested in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and used in high-crime areas like Harlem. This is only the second time the equipment tool has been used by the 49th Precinct.

The foot patrol in the Barker Avenue area has also increased and the combination has produced strong results according to Al D’Angelo, president of the Morris Park Community Association.

“It’s been very effective so far and it’ll make quite a difference over time,” he said. “There’s been a lot of violence in the area, but the lights are up and the police are there all the time. People from that area have spoken up about it and they said they felt a lot more comfortable with that tower there.”

Reach reporter Max Mitchell at (718) 742-3394 or mmitchell@cnglocal.com

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