You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

Police, neighbors say organized fights in West Willow Neighborhood have stopped

By Tom Perkins

Efforts from the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office and members of neighborhood and social groups appear to have stopped organized fights in Ypsilanti Township’s West Willow neighborhood.

Police officials and neighbors there say they haven’t seen or heard of any fights in recent months. Over the summer, videos showing what appeared to be organized fights between teens that attracted up to 80 spectators began surfacing on Youtube.

Deputies said the fights originally involved teenage boys and girls, and would happen one bout after another for about 15 minutes. Several adults also appeared to be involved, and officers previously suspected there was gambling on the fights.

Neighborhood residents and police officials say the fights continued even after videos stopped surfacing, but believe those have also since ceased.

Lt. Jim Anuszkiewicz said several arrests were made when deputies caught people in the act of fighting, and charges of felony resisting and obstructing arrest and disturbing the peace were forwarded to the prosecutor’s office. But he said no arrests were made involving people who were in the Youtube videos.

Making arrests in the incidents was particularly difficult because no victims came forward, and no one would talk with police about what was happening.


New West Willow Neighborhood Association President Angela Barbash

Tom Perkins | For

“We did go down and speak to individuals, but we didn’t we receive a lot of cooperation,” Anuszkiewicz said.

The most recent fights appeared to only involve two separate cliques of girls, said Claudia Small, who is part of Girls on the Run. That group and the Sheriff’s Department's Street Outreach Team were directly working with the youths to try to resolve the lingering disputes.

Small said many of the fights were blown out of proportion, and attributed the issues to the relative isolation of the neighborhood from recreation or entertainment. She said her group is working to address those issues.

“One of the bigger problems is there’s nothing for the kids to do out that way,” she said. “They need to have their energy channeled somewhere else.”

Angela Barbash, president of the New West Willow Neighborhood Association, said the neighborhood is definitely quieter, but she wasn't sure whether it was because of neighborhood and police efforts, or because school is back in session.

She said it was likely a combination of factors, and said the neighborhood needs to take measures to prevent the same issues next summer.

“What kind of programming do we bring into the neighborhood to teach self-respect, because that’s the core issue,” she said.

An apparently organized fight that occurred in Liberty Square was also brought to the Sheriff’s Department attention in September. But Anuszkiewicz said it appears those fights happened sometime in summer 2010 because of the number of homes still occupied in the video. Liberty Square is now almost totally abandoned.

The fights appear unrelated to the West Willow fights, and Anuszkiewicz said investigators didn’t have any leads.

A quick search on Youtube reveals similar videos from communities across the country, but Anuszkiewicz said he hasn’t heard it’s of significant concern from other police agencies.

But he said Youtube is proving to be an effective investigative tool.

“With Youtube videos, we are getting a whole slew of information coming out of the videos that we never had before,” he said.



Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 11:58 p.m.

This is wonderful news for this side of town. I too wish all the students and coordinators the best of luck.


Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 9:44 p.m.

A Detroit station just aired a fight between 8th grade girls at a middle school. The video showed the girls fighting in the restroom. They called them 30 second fights. Supposedly they were supposed to last 30 seconds but the one they showed continued. People were asking where the teachers were and how could 15 girls be out of their classrooms with no one noticing. The parents were saying that the school officials knew about the fights but didn't do anything.

Claudia Small

Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 7:24 p.m.

Friday December 2nd 6pm-9pm West Willow Community Recreation Center will have an Open House where we will be introducing new programming for the winter semester. The NonProfit Leaders Alliance student division at EMU will be helping to host it. We will have sign ups for, DAVID - Young mens group (, Girls on the Run (, and so many more options for the youth as well as adult/senior programs. For more info go to <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Thank you Tom


Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 8:52 p.m.

anything cool for the kids to do at the open house like maybe boxing matches???? Serious, put em in head gear, lace on some gloves and let em burn up their energy.

joe golder

Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 8:02 p.m.

A big thanks to everyone involved in this open house! I would like to give a special thanks to the students for giving up their time to get involved in our community! I hope the young people take advantage of the great resources that will be available to them.

Berda Green

Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 6:41 p.m.

so glad to hear that the kids today are just so crazy i was brought there back in the day when i lived there it was great allover


Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 4:27 p.m.

My how times have changed. There were no high school fights in my day (1960s) - anywhere that was reported. I do recall an organized snowball fight that was quite impressive in grade school. (snow--pack &quot;forts&quot; were constructed a few feet apart and about 15 kids on either side proceeded to lob snowballs at each other). Strange that YouTube is proving so handy for police - it's just a trivial social phenomenon but bespeaks our desire to &quot;publicize ourselves.&quot;


Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 5:34 p.m.

Fighting is a pretty basic human thing, not sure how your high school had no fights, especially in the tumultuous 1960s.


Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 3:52 p.m.

Say what you must, but West Willow is not yet cleaned up. Just a few days ago a daughter allowed a couple guys take her mothers car, and police were called, it was a hell of a chase. It took many police officers away from other crimes that were probably more important. On one hand I hope the guys get caught soon, on the other hand I hope they are still in the woods freezing their butts off. But like officers said, they both have probably left the area. Glad to hear the organized fights have pretty much stopped. Now what to do about the un-organized ones??

Ron Granger

Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 1:41 p.m.

In my senior year of high school, many of my friends staged a huge gang brawl on school property. I think it was 20-25 people. They had weapons. Sides were pre-arranged. That was before the days of cheap video, so I don't think there is any. Shrugs. Btw, pro wrestling? That's fake too.