ORCHARD LAKE — When 14-year-old Brandon Crawford decided to devote his Eagle Scout project to improving the lagoon in his Harbor Hills neighborhood on Cass Lake, he never imagined it would become the target of thieves — twice.
“I wanted to help make the entrance to our lagoon a little easier. At night, you can’t see where the channel is, so I decided to put in navigation lights and buoy lights. If you line them up correctly, you’ll be in the channel, and if you’re out on the lake, you can see by the buoys where the entrance is by,” he said.
After the Harbor Hills Neighborhood Association approved the project in May, Brandon
began collecting bottles and cans to pay for the solar lights, which he then purchased and attached to buoys at the entrance to the lagoon in mid-July. Within weeks, both lights were stolen.
“We just went out and did another bottle drive to raise money for new lights,” he said.
He installed the second set on Aug. 18, but by Aug. 21 the lights had been removed from the buoys again.
His mother, Suzanne, said she is baffled by the thefts. The lights themselves were not extravagant — costing around $30 each, and the neighborhood association paid for the buoys.
“We don’t know if it’s someone who thinks these lights are something fancier than what they really are. I try not to take things personally, but it seems very malicious,” she said.
“They’re not bright lights; they’re not shining across the lake. It just leaves a pit in my stomach. I can’t imagine why someone would do this.”
Brandon said he has since filed two police reports with the Orchard Lake Police Department.
“They told me that people do bad things, and that I can’t let it stop me from moving forward,” he said.
“They’re going to try and keep an eye out in the water, and find out if anyone saw anything.”
Orchard Lake Police Detective Sgt. Darrell Betts said while there are no suspects in the thefts, he believes teens on jet skis might be the culprits.
“We’ve been having some problems over that way; there’s been some gasoline stolen from other boats, so we’re thinking it’s kids out on jet skis in the middle of the night who are taking the lights,” he said.
“There’s no reason to believe that an adult would do something like that. It’s a shame that it’s happened twice.”
The second part of Brandon’s project was to install two solar range lights on a post, that, when lined up, make it easier for boaters to navigate the channel in the darkness.
Suzanne said she received a call just days ago from a neighbor who wanted to thank Brandon for his efforts.
“He said, ‘Those lights are something I’ve been wanting to do for 25 years, but I couldn’t figure out the wiring. I can’t tell you how helpful the project has been for me,’” she recalled.
Suzanne said that while it is unlikely the thief will be caught, she thinks it was important for Brandon to report the theft.
“We’re trying to teach Brandon that you don’t have to just sit back and say. ‘Oh well, it happened’ — that you should try to do something about it. It’s a learning experience, and that’s the overall purpose of the Eagle Scout project, but this is not something we would have ever expected,” she said.
“We wanted to make it known that what this person is stealing is the hard work of a Scout. Maybe they will anonymously return the lights.”
Brandon said although he would like to replace the buoy lights for a third time, he is first looking into tamper-proof screws or adhesives that would make it more difficult for a would-be thief to remove them.
President of the Harbor Hills Neighborhood Association Eileen Evans said she has no idea who might have stolen the lights, but added that the entire board is “very grateful” that Brandon chose to do his project in the neighborhood.
“The directional navigation lights help bring people safely in our lagoon in the dark,” she said.
“He is a very responsible, resourceful, bright young man and we’re happy to have him in the neighborhood.”
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