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'Fists start flying': Plaza looking for relief in wake of dust-ups

'There have been several reported fights, drug use and overall disrespect for the businesses, public and plaza property,' says ward councillor

Residents and business owners in the area surrounding the new Maple Ridge Secondary School in Barrie's south end are hoping some students can learn to mind their manners.

A video that made the rounds on social media in mid-February showed several teenagers brawling inside a restaurant at the plaza, located at the corner of Mapleview Drive East and Prince William Way. Punches, kicks and screaming erupted before the teens left the business.

Barrie police communications co-ordinator Peter Leon told BarrieToday that on Feb. 21 officers did attend and investigate a report of a disturbance involving a number of young people inside the restaurant after school had been let out for the day. 

“The incident was thoroughly investigated by detectives from Investigative Services and concluded with two males being arrested and charged with assault,” Leon confirmed.

Business owners have been upset by the rise in incidents since Maple Ridge opened in September 2021.

BarrieToday attended the plaza on Monday and spoke to some business owners. While no one wanted to have their name and business revealed, one owner said she regularly sees incidents since the high school opened.

“They try to say they’re play-fighting, but they’re not," she said. "If they do start play-fighting, someone always gets hurt and then the fists start flying. It gets violent and they push into cars, scratching them up.

"It's also the disrespect they are showing to those of us in this plaza. The parking lot is terrible with garbage," she added. 

The business owner said she has called the school before, only to be told that the incidents aren’t happening on school property so there's little they can do. 

“They come in for lunch with about 20 or 30 of them and they’re sitting on tables, taking pictures off walls," she said. "I just don’t get it — there is a real need for responsibility.

"I should also say it isn’t all of the students," the woman added. "There are a handful who are a joy to have. But the crowds of them that come in and cause problems do so, making others look bad in the process.”

Officials at the Simcoe County District School Board did not respond to an email from BarrieToday requesting comment for this story.

Over at Barrie police, Leon said it was “important" to recognize it's an area that is undergoing "significant growth.” It was also the neighbourhood that was hit by a tornado in July 2021. 

“Our officers are working with everyone involved, including the students, and are working towards ensuring that everyone is and feels safe," he said. "We have utilized our Citizens on Patrol, who can monitor activity in the area and have the ability to contact our communications centre if required."

Leon also confirmed there's a heightened police presence in the area.

Coun. Bryn Hamilton, who represents Ward 10, says she has been contacted by constituents who are concerned with the negative activity in the area.

“I have received a number of complaints from business owners and concerned citizens regarding disturbing activity in the plaza, especially during lunch hour of the nearby high school,” Hamilton told BarrieToday.

“While it's great to see students utilize the local services, there unfortunately seems to be a few problem kids demonstrating negative behaviour," the councillor added. "There have been several reported fights, drug use and overall disrespect for the businesses, public and plaza property.”

Hamilton said both Barrie police and Maple Ridge school have been contacted to make them aware of the situation. 

“Last week, a few kids were charged and subsequently suspended from school for fighting," she said. "Hopefully, we are showing them a zero-tolerance approach for this type of inappropriate behaviour.

"The Ward 10 Community Council has also brought forward ideas to engage with community members and parents so we can alert them to these issues and gain their support in circumventing problems going forward," Hamilton added. 

The Ward 10 Community Council was established to give community members the opportunity to express their needs, as well as their opinions on issues that affect their lives and to have them heard at the municipal level. The group is made up of residents in the neighbourhoods within the ward.

Hamilton also said police have been connecting with business owners in the plaza and have provided more police presence at this location during the lunch hour. 

Meanwhile, some business owners say they are losing money in the meantime.

One business owner told BarrieToday they have had to hire a door-person to keep students from filling the store and not only has that cost money, but the store has also seen many acts of theft.