Ottawa parents trying to end teen swarmings in Orléans

Parents in Orléans are banding together to do something about teenage boys threatening other youths and stealing their clothes, bikes and cellphones.

'He grabbed me by the neck. It's pretty terrifying,' youth says

Nolan Hann says he was swarmed by a group of teenagers, demanding he give up his bike. (Ashley Burke/CBC)

Parents in Orléans are banding together to do something about teenage boys threatening other youths and stealing their clothes, bikes and cellphones.

Nolan Hann, 14, said he was circled by more than a dozen teens on Provence Avenue near Innes Road last month.

One teenage boy was swearing and yelling at him to hand over his bike. 

"He grabbed me by the neck," Hann said. "It's pretty terrifying."

Hann said he saw adults drove by without stopping to help. He was eventually able to bolt home on his bike and call his mother.

Anik Génier said her son was frantic and crying, and that she told him to hang up and call police.

'It's scary': Mother says she fears for the safety of her kids after son was swarmed

6 years ago
Duration 0:42
Anik Génier, whose son was swarmed by a group of teenage boys in Orléans, says the neighbourhood isn't as safe as it seems.

"It's scary," she said. "I live in the suburbs. I live in Orléans thinking it's a nice, safe neighbourhood. ... No one did anything. If they were afraid, they didn't have to stop, they could have just called 911."

Génier is one of several parents in the neighbourhood using a new Facebook group to spread the word about swarmings and encourage witnesses to call Ottawa police.

Next week, they're scheduled to meet with police and the area's city councillor to give officials a better picture of the problem. Police, meanwhile, said there hasn't been a spike in the number of swarmings reported to police.

'It was very intimidating. I was shaking'

Lisa Plante, a mother of two, said she was the victim of a swarming in broad daylight in a busy plaza. 

"It felt like sexual assault," Plante said about last summer's incident. "It was very derogatory. It was very obscene."

I was trying to look confident and brave but on the inside I was trembling.- Lisa Plante, swarming victim

Plante was inside a restaurant at Innes and Trim roads when she heard a group of teenage boys make a derogatory comment about women.

She said she glared at them and told them it wasn't OK to speak like that. The teens then allegedly followed Plante across the plaza and waited for her outside the LCBO.

"The second I walked out of the door they were instantly harassing me, yelling obscenities," she said. 

"They were using language that was shocking to me. That these young boys would even have the courage to do so in broad daylight to a mom, to a middle-aged woman, it was just appalling."

Lisa Plante called police after a group of teens followed her to her vehicle at an Orléans plaza and yelled sexual obscenities at her. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

There were five or more teens who looked to be 15 or 16 years old and "had no fear," she said. 

"I had never been in a situation like that before," Plante said. "I was very intimidated. I was shaking. I was trying to look confident and brave but on the inside I was trembling."

She thought to herself, what if that happened to my daughter or one of her friends? "If I was that scared, imagine how scared they would be."

Plante said she called police after she drove off, but they didn't send a cruiser because the teens had already left the area. 

Cases going unreported

Greg Shore said he's coached many teens who talk about being robbed and "terrorized" in a similar way.

Out of frustration, he helped start a Facebook group called "Let's Make Orléans Safe Again," where parents can share accounts of swarmings.

Some parents told CBC News their children have stopped wearing expensive clothing outside or going into stores when they see groups of teens inside, and that youths are often afraid to notify anyone when something happens.

"Children are terrified to tell their parents," said Shore. "They're terrified to say anything in the community because they fear repercussions when they go to school.

Children are terrified to tell their parents.- Greg Shore, community member

"They fear repercussions when they walk on the street. So they would rather say nothing, deal with the losses of their bicycles, their phones, clothing, as opposed to trying to make a difference."

Shore is now spearheading an effort to create a neighbourhood watch program and flag homes as safe havens for teens to run to if they are swarmed.

Greg Shore is helping spearhead a neighbourhood watch group to prevent swarmings in Orléans after hearing stories online from parents. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

'Certainly it's despicable'

Cumberland ward Coun. Stephen Blais said two residents called him in the past week or so to express concern about the issue. 

"Certainly it's despicable," Blais said.

"Orléans is a very well-off community. There is no need to rob someone for their clothes or for their cellphone or what have you.

"Some of these kids might just need to have that police intervention to kind of set them straight, so hopefully they can go on to be more productive members of society."

Ottawa police Const. Andrew Worth said there have been some reported swarmings, but not to the extent that's being described online. 

"Our issue is reporting. For many reasons, residents are not reporting many issues they are discussing on social media, making a proper response difficult," Worth wrote in an emailed statement.

"Without a complete picture of the issues plaguing the community, a proper response may be delayed."