Here’s The Newest Tool in the NYPD’s Surveillance Arsenal

11.15.12 Andy Cush

The NYPD recently purchased and deployed four new mobile surveillance towers to monitor the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy. Unlike the SkyWatch towers the department has used in the past, TerraHawk Mobile Utility Surveillance Towers (M.U.S.T.) are self-contained and mobile, with a surveillance platform that extends out of the back of a conversion van. “We believe the Mobile Utility Surveillance Tower’s ability be rapidly deployed will be a great benefit for the department,” TerraHawk spokeswoman Laura Robinson told ANIMAL.

The NYPD had originally scheduled the vehicles to be delivered later in the month, but asked TerraHawk to rush the shipment, in order to surveil citizens of the areas that lost power in the storm. “From what I understand, the officers are working in a state of emergency situation to maintain a police presence in the communities,” said TerraHawk president Tom James in a press release. “And our TerraHawk units are providing an elevated platform, fully powered with lighting and equipped with HurleyIR infrared cameras for monitoring areas without power where looting could easily occur.”

M.U.S.T. units have already been deployed in Staten Island, Far Rockaway, Coney Island, and Howard Beach, but Robinson noted that they’re subject to move at any moment.

According to Robinson, only one officer is needed to operate the vehicles, and “in the event of a riot,” police can deploy and move into to the surveillance platform at the push of a button, without ever exiting to the street.

When the tower is extended, the van’s suspension is automatically taken out of play, “basically turning the van into a 10,000 pound rock,” Robinson said. In addition, a stabilization system keeps the tower secured in winds up to 40 mph, and HD, thermal, and infrared cameras allow police to monitor and record surveillance footage.

TerraHawk vans have been used to monitor the NATO summit protest in Chicago and the Texas-Mexico border in the past, but this marks the first time they’ve been employed by the NYPD.

Robinson declined to comment on whether officers would be able to mount guns or anti-riot weaponry atop the tower, and the NYPD could not be reached at the time of this writing.

Check out footage of a M.U.S.T. deploying its tower below.

(Photo: TerraHawk, LLC)