SOUTHAVEN, MS (abc24.com) - The start of the holiday shopping season also marked the first day of duty for Southaven's latest crime fighter. Police have a new tool they believe will discourage criminals from coming to town.
Officers are putting their eyes to the sky. The police department started using its first ever SkyCop. The machine was installed last week right before Thanksgiving. Officers believe it's worth every penny it cost.
"We will move it around from place to place," says Deputy Chief Steve Pirtle. "We'll probably use it almost 365 days a year." These days Southaven's SkyCop is parked in the shopping center off Goodman Road. "It runs 24/7," Pirtle says.
The $52,000 machine has cameras recording everything that goes on. "If it is deployed out and you see it, you can count on the fact it's live and working."
It's closely monitored by Southaven police.
They're using it all through December as part of the department's Operation Christmas Presence. Deputy Chief Pirtle hopes criminals take one look at the flashing blue lights and go somewhere else.
"If they come down there's a chance they'll get caught on video and ultimately wind up in jail if they're going to commit crime. I hope we have more luck with it being a deterrent than we do catching people after a crime. We'd much rather prevent them."
So far, so good.
Sky Cop has been in action since last Wednesday night. There have been no crimes reported. Shoppers already like what they see.
"That's why I parked over here because I saw the SkyCop and I thought that would be a good place to stop," says shopper Jeff Schoultz.
"It would make me feel safer as a shopper," adds Kay LeGrow.
"We'd like to ultimately have a fleet of them so I could deploy several of them, especially in the shopping season," Deputy Chief Pirtle tells abc24.com. "That's a goal we're going to work towards over the next few years."
The Shelby County Sheriff's Office has four SkyCops. The Memphis Police Department has 14 trailers and more than 50 cameras. A spokesperson for MPD says wherever they're located the crime rate drops significantly, if not 100 percent.