In the ongoing, Sisyphian effort to curb illegal vending and other illegal activity outside the 24th and Mission BART Station, BART Police put up a 15-foot watch tower on Monday. Then they took it down.

There have been a number of false starts and failed attempts in the city's and BART's efforts to address the sometimes chaotic scene at the 24th and Mission BART plaza, which for over a year now has been filled — sometimes to the point of there being little space to walk — with vendors selling toiletries, clothing, fresh meats, and other sometimes stolen goods.

BART threw up some chain-link fencing in July 2022, but that was quickly pulled down by protesters. An effort to enforce permitting requirements for vendors lasted a little while last fall. And since then, deterrent efforts like stationing an SFPD vehicle in the plaza have done some good, and the McDonald's across the street also had barricades put up around it in June to keep vendors from camping out on that sidewalk.

But on Monday, BART police brought out one piece of their arsenal that hasn't been tried there before: a 15-foot watch tower on a riser contraption. As Mission Local reports, passersby didn't see any police officers going in or out of the thing, but it appeared early Monday morning, and by Monday evening it was gone again.

The darkly tinted windows on the thing made it impossible to know if anyone was inside, and some observers told Mission Local it was probably just a decoy and deterrent, shooing off vendors who didn't want to attract police attention.

SFGate reported on a different, much taller version of this watch tower being used by BART Police at Lafayette Station and elsewhere in 2015. The tower, called Skywatch, was reportedly purchased in 2013 with a grant from the California Transit Security Program, and BART said in a statement at the time that it would be used to "provide a high visibility police presence to deter and detect criminal activity."

The tower seen on Monday at 24th looks decidedly smaller than that one, and a different shape.

BART's Skywatch in 2015, courtesy of BART; the tower seen on Monday, via manlypants/Twitter

According to Mission Local, some of the more established vendors at the plaza who have their proper permits welcomed the tower, hoping it signaled more consistent police presence.

In addition to the rampant illegal vending and some drug dealing, the plaza has been the site of recent violent crime as well.

The 24th Street BART plaza was the scene of a fatal shooting in December 2022. A BART custodial worker was stabbed inside 24th Street-Mission Station in May.

It remains to be seen when or if the watch tower will return.

Related: Now They’ve Put Barricades Around the McDonald's at 24th Street BART Because of Illegal Vending Scene

Photo via manlypants/Twitter