Coming to a Gasparilla near you: Eyes in the sky - FOX 13 News

Coming to a Gasparilla near you: Eyes in the sky

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Tampa is expecting a flood of people to swamp Bayshore Boulevard on Saturday, as we brace for the Gasparilla Children's Parade.

Only this year, dozens of new electronic eyes will also be watching everything you're doing.

Tampa police have had plenty of success using those cameras left over from the RNC in key spots all over the city, nabbing bad guys. Now, they'll be employed once again, to make sure everyone has a safe experience at this year's Gasparilla events.

They are the city's eyes in the sky -- five mobile trailers like the one you may have noticed parked outside the Walmart on Dale Mabry near I-275.  It's been used to help curb shoplifting during the holiday shopping season.

Each unit has three to four cameras perched high on top of a telescoping neck, giving Tampa police a total of 19 different views above the Gasparilla parades.

"We want everybody to go home with a neck full of beads and not a pair of handcuffs," said Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor.

Gasparilla is the city's signature event.

"We're asking everyone to go out, have a great time, but make sure you're responsible for your actions during the Gasparilla festivities," Castor said.

So there will be teams of officers on bikes, T-3's and Segways, making it easier and faster to maneuver through the thick crowds.  Plus, just a little higher up off the ground, there is the mounted patrol.

"Mounted patrol is a great asset because the officers are up on top of the horses, and they're able to see large geographic areas," Castor said.

There are also 58 fixed cameras across downtown Tampa, and that includes one on Bayshore.

Back in November, leftover RNC cameras in a parking garage and above Lykes-Gaslight Park gave police super-clear images of a man accused of attacking a woman. He ran away from the scene and then tossed his shirt in a garbage can. He was caught moments later in that same park, right next door to the police department.

"They are valuable tools for our police department," said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who added that the five mobile camera units are expected to be big players in this year's parades, ensuring if you get out of hand, it won't go unnoticed.

"We'll be able to alert officers on the ground, if there are any issues, medical issues, so that we can get fire and rescue there a lot quicker," Castor said.

The cameras will also help the city enforce its zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking.

"We want the adults and the parents to make sure the kids have a good time, and we want them to make sure that if they make bad decisions, it could impact them, for a long, long time," Buckhorn said.

Police explained there will be two officers sitting in a room looking at two huge monitors that together will show every camera that is trained on Gasparilla.

The hope is they only see a lot of folks having fun.

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