Urine, bottles and debris thrown: Waterloo residents blame student partying

Residents in the MacGregor Albert area of Waterloo, located just south of Wilfrid Laurier University, say their homes and properties are damaged on a regular basis by partying students.

Residents of the MacGregor Albert neighbourhood say more needs to be done to curb bad student behaviour

Some residents in the historic MacGregor Albert area of Waterloo say their properties have been vandalized by university students who party in the neighbourhood. (Google Streetview)

The story of a cinder block being thrown through a Waterloo family's living room window is disturbing, but not surprising, neighbours in the MacGregor Albert area of Waterloo say.

Several residents called CBC News to report their homes are under constant attack by what they believe are university students under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

"We've had windows broken, we've had storm doors completely destroyed. We've had fences broken so often that my mom stopped putting it up," said Maggie Voelker, who lives in what is known locally as the Christmas House on Young Street West – because they put a Christmas tree on the front lawn each year – with her 100-year-old mother.

Voelker notes the MacGregor Albert area is a heritage district and should be protected. She said she has a "book full" of complaints to the city.

"When is enough, enough?" she asked.

Escalated after kegger shut down

Scott Leatherdale told CBC News he recently had a death threat shouted at him from a passing car and then, around 2 a.m. Wednesday morning, a concrete cinder block was thrown through his living room window, landing near a swing they use for their infant son.

"You can see a huge dent in the wood floor where the block landed," he said.

Leatherdale said he thinks the threat and vandalism are retaliation because the students who live next door believe he called police on St. Patrick's Day about an illegal keg party.

"It seems like since that time, out of the blue, things escalated," Leatherdale said.

He added there is no proof it was students who yelled out the threat or vandalized his home.

"I would not say it's a coincidence that a large party gets busted and then all of a sudden we're dealing with substantial threats to our well-being," he said.

A photo taken early Wednesday morning shows a cinder block which was thrown inside Scott Leatherdale's Albert Street home. He says it bounced off his son's swinging chair (pictured) before landing on the floor. (Contributed by Scott Leatherdale)

'I'm not very big, but I know how to fight'

Many of the residents who called CBC, however, immediately placed blame for the threats – as well as regular parties and vandalism in their neighbourhood – on students and neighbouring Wilfrid Laurier University.

Voelker recalled one case a couple of years ago when a well-known athlete from nearby Laurier tried to kick in all three doors of their home while he was intoxicated, causing several thousand dollars in damage.

"When that person tried to break in all three entrances in this beautiful 1849 farmhouse, I was actually concerned that before the police arrived, he would succeed," she told CBC News.

"And I was standing in the kitchen at the entrance to the hallway leading up to mom's room and just praying with my whole heart, I was on the phone with dispatch, and just saying, 'OK, if this is it, he's not getting to mom. It will be over my dead body that he gets to mom.' I'm not very big, but I know how to fight."

'Out of their brains'

Etienne Pfersch, who lives on Central Street, said he and his wife have considered moving away from the area.

"We had repeated damage, property damage, vandalism, car damage, broken window, broken garden gate, stolen porch lamps, all kinds of stuff like that," he said.

"I have a 20-year-old daughter now, but when she was still living with us, we moved her room away from the street side because we did not know what was going to happen overnight. Do we have to put iron bars on our windows? We are coming to that point, almost. You have beer bottles thrown in your window just for fun, golf balls, ice blocks when snow was around."

The couple has lived on Central Street for more than a decade. He said at first, police responded and took reports. But after about 2009, officers weren't always able to come by and he said he doesn't call police now because he feels discouraged.

He said the problem isn't just at St. Patrick's Day, it's every weekend and it just gets worse during special occasions including homecoming.

"They come out of the bars at two o'clock in the morning … and they're completely out of their brains," he said.

Abdication of responsibility

Marissa Amoroso and her husband, Jeff Slater, live near a fraternity on Young Street.

"We've had people at their party who are impaired jumping from their garage roof to our garage roof and back again, and we've asked them to stop. We've seen people fall off the roof," Amoroso said.

They have refrained from calling police because, Amoroso said, police have more pressing matters to deal with and they had hoped they could deal with the problem themselves by talking to the students. They have even met with the president of the fraternity.

"It got better for a little while but it just continues. And there's just this complete abdication of responsibility. They say, 'Well, it's not us,' but it's the people at their parties that are coming across and urinating on our house and using our backyard as their latrine," she said.

It's the people at their parties that are coming across and urinating on our house.- Young Street resident Marissa Amoroso

On a recent Saturday night, Amoroso and Slater returned home and were talking to neighbours on the sidewalk.

"We're just standing and chatting on the street and we watched somebody go back onto our driveway and urinate against our house. My husband went across to talk to the frat to say keep people off our property, there was, like, 20 to 30 kids on the front lawn and on Young Street, and their response was, 'You live next to a frat, what do you expect?'"

Amoroso said she and her husband both attended university, were both varsity athletes and they both understand that drinking is, for many students, part of the university experience.

Selfies with security and police officers were popular as Wilfrid Laurier University students celebrated St. Patrick's Day on Waterloo, Ont.'s Ezra Street, March 17, 2016. Police said they would be fair but firm with students. (Gary Graves/CBC)

But the partying has gone too far, and she said, no one seems capable of doing anything about it.

"There doesn't seem to be a way to have it addressed," she said.

"We have talked to student leadership at Laurier," she added. "We've really not had any follow-up from them."

Police response dependent on calls 

Waterloo Regional Police Staff Sgt. Mike Haffner said officers do try to respond to the calls to the area in a timely manner.

"Certain priorities take precedence in our response and I think everyone would appreciate that," Haffner said. "We will respond, but it may not be an immediate response because we're attending to another call for service that takes precedent."

He added residents can report certain non-emergency crimes, like vandalism, on the police website.

Laurier 'appalled' by reports

For its part, Wilfrid Laurier says it condemns any acts of vandalism or abusive behaviour.

"We are appalled by this behavior on our campus borders. It is inconsistent with the values of the university and of the vast majority of our students," David McMurray, vice president of student affairs, said in a statement emailed to CBC News.

"We are assisting police and city bylaw enforcement in their investigations. We have also asked that these latest incidents be addressed at the next meeting of the city's Town and Gown committee, which includes representation from the neighbourhood," McMurray wrote.

"We want the community and our student body to know that Laurier takes these issues very seriously."


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