Residents in Ailsa Craig are raising concerns over theft and vandalism issues in their community.

Those living in the North Middlesex municipality say something needs to be done about youth from the nearby Craigwood Youth Services centre trespassing on their properties and taking things from local businesses.

Woodlot and sugar shack owner Ian McKay lives across the street from the youth detention centre and says he has had to beef up security on his property to make it harder for people trespassing on his property to break in and cause damage.

McKay has organized a community meeting Wednesday night to discuss the issue in hopes of coming up with solutions to the problem.

“They've set fire in the trailer a couple times and just three weeks ago or a month ago they broke in and broke this door down here and broke into the trailer as well and once they get in they throw everything all around,” McKay says.

He says in 2000 youth from the centre set fire to his sugar shack and he has since had to rebuild it.

Local business owners like Sara Cronyn, who owns the Foodland grocery store and LCBO agency store in town says she’s seen an increase in the number of incidents since 2016.

She says alcohol has been stolen from the store on numerous occasions and there’s been “more theft and more kids coming into town causing problems.”

“I don’t think it’s necessary for it to close down because I think that those kids have to be somewhere and they’re going to be near a community no matter what, so I feel that finding solutions is important.”

Cronyn says she believes it comes down to an imbalance of power.

“When a child from Craigwood Youth Services gets out, at times I have seen the vans at times I’ve seen the vans walk along beside them saying ‘Please get in the van….’ where the kids know they don’t have to, and the balance of power has shifted and the kids have their rights and it’s something that we’ve got to fix.”

OPP West Region Const. Chad Murray says police are aware of the meeting and residents’ concerns, but they say they haven’t had more crimes than usual reported.

"From my understanding the residents believe that there has been a spike in the crime. From the information that I have, there is no indication that there is a significant spike in the crime.”

He says they’re encouraging the public to continue to report the crimes and that police want to work with the community to address the issue.

He was unable to confirm if police would be attending Thursday evening’s meeting.

McKay says he believes many people call the facility directly to file complaints, and says many people likely don’t bother reporting incidents anymore because he says OPP haven’t done anything to address the problem.

Craigwood released a statement regarding the town hall meeting saying they “will be in attendance to hear the valuable input of the community and to continue openly engaging in a dialogue with our community.”

The facility has been operating in the community for almost 65 years, and specializes in treating children and youth and their families struggling with mental illness.