Ohio to Use Portable Video Surveillance Towers

According to The Columbus Dispatch, the Investigative Unit of the Ohio Department of Public Safety has just purchased two state-of-the-art portable surveillance towers, equipped with an HD video and audio surveillance camera system.

Made by Flir Systems Inc. of Alpharetta, GA, the two towers cost taxpayers over $250,000 dollars — however half of that cost will be paid for by homeland-security funds.

Eric Wolf, head of Ohio’s Investigative Unit, said the towers will be used mainly for events that bring in large crowds, such as the Ohio State Fair and outdoor concerts.  “We’re going to be looking at what people are doing in large crowds, not spying to see what people are doing in their neighborhoods.  They [the trucks] will be used to enhance our ability to help control the overall safety at larger events and concerts.”

The towers can fit two people inside and can be raised up to 25 feet high.  They are also attached to towable trailers, and are equipped with spotlights, loudspeakers, five surveillance cameras and a radar system.  According to Flir, they offer a “completely customized surveillance platform suitable for high-level, temporary security ventures, providing a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding area.”

Wolf, whose unit focuses primarily on alcohol-related violations, hopes the towers be useful at events such as Jamboree in the Hills, a popular country-music festival that is often the site of countless underage-drinking arrests.

However, many are uncomfortable with the idea of a large tower being brought in specifically to watch people.  But Wolf reminds those people:  Just because these towers are large and visible doesn’t take away from the fact that we are all under surveillance almost everywhere we go these days.