Residents and shop owners in Guildwood Plaza are once again raising concerns over violence in the Scarborough shopping center. The latest incident was a fight on Tuesday, where a teen was sent to hospital with serious injuries.
“About 50 kids were in a large circle watching and taping it with their phones, while another student was getting beat up,” said one witness who did not want to be identified. “When an ambulance came, I saw a young man sitting on the stoop with a neck brace, a very swollen eye and blood on his face.”
Toronto Police tell CityNews a call came in shortly before 1 p.m. saying a security guard was trying to break up a fight between 50 to 60 teenagers.
Guildwood Plaza is frequented by students at a neighbouring high school, and residents say these incidents are on the rise, particularly during the lunch hour and after school.
“I’ve had people say to me that they can’t come here with their child,” explains Meredith Karcher. “Between the foul language, the pushing and shoving, between the violence that escalates.”
Tuesday’s incident was the third time police have been called to the shopping plaza since the start of the school year.
In September, just days after the start of school, a shop owner says her store front windows came crashing down after a fight. The TDSB says that incident involved students from Sir Wilfred Laurier Collegiate Institute.
Then in mid-September, a 23-year old man was seriously injured after a stabbing. The School Board says that incident did not involve students from the school.
“The kids probably see that there are no consequences and there are no repercussions, so they think it’s okay to behave this way,” says Karcher, who adds that the area is relatively a great place to live.
The latest fight on Tuesday did involve students from the high school, according to a TDSB spokesperson, who says the school “stays in contact with the mall management company, mall security, Toronto Police and the community to address any issues that arise.”
Ryan Bird also says the school doesn’t have control over what locations students visit over the lunch hour, but negative behaviour off school property can result in disciplinary action. Bird wouldn’t divulge any details on if any students involved in past incidents faced any disciplinary action, citing privacy issues.
“The school board has been fairly responsive, they’ve been positive,” said Karcher. “They do have teachers here, and the principal and the Vice-Principal occasionally, but they weren’t here the day that this happened.”
Karcher says several people have reached out to the property management about increasing the security presence in the plaza, adding that after the stabbing incident, they were told more cameras would be installed within a timeline that has come and gone.
“I did reach out to them, they did provide a response that the cameras are going to be installed,” she explained. “If there were cameras installed, there’s also supposed to be signage installed at the plaza that says there are cameras here, you are being recorded. I don’t see that here.”
Morguard, the property management company, says it is aware of the incidents and concerns and is taking steps to increase security in the plaza. Though it won’t reveal details about security cameras citing safety reasons, the Director of Operations says there are measures underway.
“We have the right of trespassing and banning, that’s already started,” said John Barclay. “That’s our way of identifying the individuals who we feel are not coming on site for the right reason, or misbehaving unreasonably.”
Barclay also says this issue has been around for the last two years, and that most of the students are well behaved when visiting the plaza.
“We continue and will be raising this again with the local police, that they need to be more present to help us,” said Barclay. “A guard won’t be able to control that, likely the kids aren’t going to respond to any number of private guards. I suspect they will only respond to uniformed police.”
Karcher says she, along with several business owners in the plaza, have a meeting scheduled with school officials on November 14th. She says the hope is that there’s increased security visibility, and increasing involvement by both school officials and property management.
“I would like them to be more open and engage more with the actual community,” Karcher said. “It’s very hard to figure out, what they’re doing if anything. When you ask them, there’s little to no response.”