Certainly one of the more interesting sights on my daily downtown commute on the Orange Line is the Shawshank-style prison tower that lords over Vienna station. (It decamped, temporarily, at least, to downtown DC where it sits near Judiciary Sq. ostensibly as part of National Police Week.) It sets a bleak tone that matches the mood when Metro runs into its periodic problems. So what gives, Metro, with this nod to Big Brother?
A marking on the tower calls it "Sky Watch," and the license plate pegs it as "Tower 2" of the Metro Transit Police Department.
No doubt Metro will say it's part of some security effort to make us all safer. But is it just a decoy?
Are there people up there watching, hidden behind the tinted glass? Are they surveilling everyone, and not just the would-be bad guys? Are they watching the women, as police have been known to do?
Can the cops demonstrate that whatever function this tower might serve, it's more effective than plain ol' walking the beat? Is razor wire next? For the imagery this tower conjures, there had better be some benefit. What we've got here is failure to communicate.
According to ICx Tactical Platforms, the maker of Sky Tower, it offers "an array of surveillance options."
Every tower includes the basics for the comfort and safety of the officer inside through adjustable heat and air conditioning, tinted sliding glass windows and comfortable seating. And no matter the application, only one man is required to set up and deploy a unit ... Now, one officer can cover an area previously requiring three or more personnel.Sounds good for the officer, but what about the people who have to walk by this intimidating structure every day? As you can see here, NYPD uses their towers in very different climes from Vienna Metro.