Enhanced security system aims to deter vandalism at Ghesquiere Park

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published September 21, 2022


GROSSE POINTE WOODS — Vandals who enjoy wreaking havoc in Ghesquiere Park in Grosse Pointe Woods may need to take their destructive tendencies elsewhere.

The city is getting a new, state-of-the-art surveillance system that will better enable it to monitor and crack down on anyone engaging in illegal activity in the park.

Within the next 30 days, Grosse Pointe Woods-based Pointe Alarm will be installing a closed-circuit television monitoring system in the park, replacing an older camera surveillance system. The new equipment features artificial intelligence, high-resolution cameras with night vision, and a speaker system that can be used to address anyone in the park after hours.

The Woods City Council unanimously approved Pointe Alarm’s bid of $18,461 for the system as part of its consent agenda during a meeting Sept. 12. The council also approved Pointe Alarm’s monthly around-the-clock monitoring charge of $737.94. Because this item wasn’t in the 2022-23 budget, City Administrator Frank Schulte said the money will be coming from fund balance left over from last year.

Tim Weldon, one of the owners of Pointe Alarm, said that “it’s just time” for the city to replace its existing security cameras. He noted that trees have grown, tennis courts and fields have been created, batting cages have been added, and other aspects of Ghesquiere Park have changed in recent years.

“As the park has evolved, so does the need for the technology,” Weldon said.

Weldon said the AI technology can tell the difference between a human and a dog or a squirrel, which will make it easier to determine if someone is trespassing when the park is closed.

The system’s seven cameras will cover every entrance to the park, as well as the concession stand, ball diamonds and other park amenities, Public Services Director Jim Kowalski said.

Schulte said one of the problems the city has had in curbing vandalism is not being able to catch people in the act.

“We are monitoring in real time,” Weldon said. “We are not finding out something happened (after the fact).”

Weldon said the person monitoring the cameras can use the speaker system to tell a person that the park is closed and to leave. If the person doesn’t respond to the order, the individual watching the camera footage can address the person directly — for example, by identifying the person by clothing so that the person realizes the speaker is not an automated message system.

“Through newer technology cameras, we are able to have eyes on the park to alert (public safety) dispatch, if needed,” Weldon said.

Just being able to let people know they shouldn’t be in the park is expected to have a positive impact.

“We’re hoping it really deters (problems),” Schulte said.

Unlike Lake Front Park, Ghesquiere Park doesn’t require a park pass for entry, nor is there a gate attendant. While troublemakers aren’t entering the park all the time, Schulte said the park typically experiences one or two large vandalism incidents per year, costing the city thousands annually to repair or replace equipment or remove graffiti. Among the damages racked up by vandals: holes kicked in hockey rink boards, destruction to restrooms and playscape pieces, and destruction of bleachers around the baseball diamonds.

Kowalski said the enhanced security system “definitely will” pay for itself. If vandals stick around after being asked to leave, public safety officers can be notified to confront them in person.

“We’re hoping to catch them in the act, or deter them from doing any vandalism,” Schulte said.

Even if vandals flee before they can be apprehended, the Public Safety Department will have better security camera images of them, which could enable them to be arrested and prosecuted later. The existing cameras produce images that Kowalski said are “not that great,” while the new ones will be of “excellent” quality.

It will also help public safety officers if they need to follow up on any illegal activity.

“This new technology will pinpoint the time of the incident,” Kowalski said. “It saves a lot of time and effort for the detectives.”

Just this summer, an individual or individuals attacked slides and swings in the park, rendering them out of commission for the season because Kowalski said the city couldn’t get parts to fix them right away, due to supply chain issues. He said the city hopes to reduce or eliminate problems like this with better security in the park, noting that the city and other organizations, such as the Grosse Pointe Woods and Shores Little League, have made many improvements to the park. They want residents to be able to enjoy these amenities.

“We want to keep things nice,” Kowalski said. “We want to protect our investment.”