CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Police are fed up with teens who are skipping school and then getting into trouble at a popular shopping center in south Charlotte.
Officers said they need help to curb the dangerous crimes at the Quail Corners shopping center on Park Road.
Students are only supposed to leave South Mecklenburg High School if they have early dismissal privileges as seniors, but residents said administrators don't enforce that policy, so dozens of students walk to the McDonald's every day.
Channel 9 reporter Mark Barber sat in the parking lot on Monday to see the problem firsthand and counted dozens of students hanging out in the area for hours.
Employees at the McDonald's said that same morning, they already had to remove a large group of students who swarmed inside and took over the restaurant.
"It's a shame to have a neighborhood McDonald's in the area with people actually being fearful to come and sit down," resident Robert Giziano said.
Many of the teens call their takeovers “Teentopia.”
"Something needs to be done," Giziano said.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officials said there have been 56 fights at the McDonald's so far this school year.
In the 2016-2017 school year, there were 52 fights.
"It's a very serious problem," Lt. John Kitchens said.
In June 2017, a teen shot himself in the leg at a nearby bus stop. In another case, police said one student stole five cars in just one year.
Recently, a uniformed firefighter was eating in the restaurant when teens started harassing him and belittling him because of his job.
"During the time that school is out, you will see crime go down," Kitchens said.
It's become such a problem that dozens of mothers have been discussing their concerns in online message boards.
The Quail Corners management company is fully cooperating with police to try to help curb crime. They are towing cars that don't belong on the property.
Police said officers, worried neighbors and the shopping center's management company have done all they can but the community won't see much more success until McDonald's and South Mecklenburg High administrators start enforcing stricter policies to keep students in class and out of trouble.
CMPD officials said they talked to the principal of South Mecklenburg last school year and she promised to address the situation and be more visible. Officers said that help only lasted for a week. They said lasting changes need to be made at the school and the McDonald's before someone else gets hurt.
Officers said McDonald's has been offered more security but the corporation refused. CMPD is now sending the company their crime numbers to show why help is needed.
Channel 9 called McDonald's regional headquarters and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to ask whether they're planning to make any changes to protect the community but no one answered.
They have not responded to that request.
"We need the school and community businesses here to get together here and solve the problem," Giziano said.
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