Date of Submission


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Criminal Justice (Ph.D.)


Criminal Justice


Dr. Kevin Barnes-Ceeney

Committee Member

Dr. Lior Gideon

Committee Member

Dr. Michelle Fabiani

Committee Member

Dr. Peter Moskos

LC Subject Headings

Deterrence (Strategy), Law enforcement, Police patrol--Surveillance operations


The internalization of an all-seeing gaze is an important component of crime control, whether in the form of suitable guardians, place managers, or meticulous surveillance ceremonies. Specifically, panoptic technologies have the potential to “normalize” behaviors through visible yet unverifiable surveillance. Although marketed as a technology that deters crime, SkyWatch surveillance towers’ actual deterrent effect has never been empirically evaluated. Such an assessment is critical not only from a crime reduction perspective, but also one of cost-effectiveness as these towers cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Utilizing a sequential triangulation mixed method procedure, information from 21 semi-structured interviews was combined with the analysis of crime rates from five different jurisdictions with 23 locations of SkyWatch towers across the United States, to fill a gap between anecdotal stories of these surveillance towers’ deterrent capabilities and absent statistical data. Utilizing the daily average number of calls for service as a proxy for criminal activity, statistical analysis was conducted in a quasi-experimental pre- and post-experimental design with follow-up to assess the towers’ deterrent effect within the five jurisdictions. Analysis of calls for service specifically relating to property crimes, crimes against persons, thefts of motor vehicles, and thefts from motor vehicles when a tower was deployed versus when one was not, were also conducted.

Throughout, the theoretical underpinnings of deterrence theory and routine activities theory were utilized to analyze whether deployment of SkyWatch towers had a deterrent effect. Findings from the qualitative phase demonstrated a strong law enforcement personnel belief in the SkyWatch tower being an effective crime prevention strategy, however the quantitative results were mixed and varied across the five jurisdictions evaluated. Areas for future research, particularly at a single jurisdictional level with a more nuanced analysis of tower-by-tower deployment, are suggested. Additionally, policy implications relating to the visibility of police, crime reduction, and cost-efficiency among others are outlined.