Border Patrol Special Agent Gregory Lambert wants Grosse Pointers to be knowledgeable about that was built in June as a measure to help monitor Lake St. Clair for anyone trying to illegally enter the country.
The tower—more specifically a proposed spinning radar to sit atop it—has come under fire by nearby residents who have concerns about it, not only for their health but also for the manner in which it was introduced.
Lambert, who presented the proposed tower and high-powered camera to the council in early June, said he wasn't leaving information about a spinning radar out of the proposal. The original plan was only for the tower and camera but when asked by council about what other items might be slated for the tower, he said the radar was a possibility.
The tower was built on the property of the . The Department of Homeland Security signed a multi-year lease with the private social club after first attempting to locate the tower on the grounds of the Grosse Pointe War Memorial. Some of have questioned whether club officials understood what they were getting into but a Grosse Pointe Club employee declined comment about the tower and its lease.
Now Lambert says he feels like he is being criticized for being honest. He originally deferred comment to a spokesman but later agreed to talk to Patch.
The project is part of a bigger plan to help monitor the waterways that separate the United States from Canada. He's dealt with several other communities along the waterways, including Port Huron, St. Clair and the city of Detroit—all of whom, he says, have been happy with their interaction.
There are 11 towers equipped with cameras in 37 miles of waterway stretching from Port Huron to Belle Isle, he said. The Department of Homeland Security has several options: to lease, to buy or to condemn, he said, the last of which the department has not done at all. Officials have chosen to work with the communities and they want to, he said.
"We are not in the business of condemning property," Lambert said, noting officials are aware this would not make residents of any community happy.
The only other tower with a radar in addition to a camera is the uninhabited Gull Island and the radar proposed for the top of the Grosse Pointe Farms tower will give border patrol officers complete coverage of Lake St. Clair, Lambert said.
Radar is not appropriate for the other towers because they are along the river, which twists and turns, making it less effective, Lambert said. Instead, radar works better over flat, open spaces.
The radar will not be any more of a health risk to those nearby than the radar used on large freighters and other commercial boats that travel by the Grosse Pointes on the lake, Lambert said, noting he plans to have someone attend the neighborhood meeting he is planning to explain such details. The radar is directional and will only send out a signal when pointed toward the lake, he said, explaining it is not omnidirectional and as it spins the radar signal will stop when pointed toward homes or businesses on land.
A suggestion to place the radar on the permanent structures in the water, called atons, is not an option because the size of the radar and all that comes with it would block the view for boaters, creating a safety hazard, Lambert said.
The monitoring of the lake and bordering waterways is necessary, he said, explaining the Detroit Border Patrol Sector typically lands one significant case per month. Most recently, an investigation near Algonac resulted in arrests stemming from guns, jewelry and drug crimes, he said.
In comparison with other U.S. borders, such as along Mexico, one major case per month may not seem like a large caseload but the cases that border patrol agents deal with here and in the northern potion of the United States are often much more serious and related to organized crime.
Much of the southern border investigations relate to more minor crimes, he said. Certainly there are major drug crimes down south, but organized crime is significantly less of a factor there, he said.
The cameras are a good visual deterrent to those considering using the waterways to enter the country, Lambert said. Another concern Lambert addressed is privacy. Any inappropriate use of a camera is treated seriously and with punishment, he said, noting the cameras are to be used on the waterway only.
Lambert is preparing to send out invitations to all residents who live within half a mile of the Grosse Pointe Farms tower to invite them to an informational meeting about the project. After that meeting, he wants to submit the plans for the radar to the council for their approval, he said.
A construction application has already been submitted to the Grosse Pointe Farms building department for the radar, Lambert said.