Victoria police are looking for victims and witnesses after a downtown graffiti spree overnight Tuesday, where messages including “Support Beacon Hill” and “Defend Beacon Hill” were spray-painted at Victoria City Hall and other buildings.
Other graffiti included profanities directed at city bylaw staff.
Beacon Hill Park has been the controversial site of an ongoing tent encampment for people without homes since the pandemic significantly reduced shelter spaces, and bylaw officers have been called upon to enforce rules for the campers.
At a news conference Wednesday, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps called the vandalism “completely unacceptable” and praised the work of the city’s bylaw department.
“Our staff are doing an incredible job in very difficult circumstances,” Helps said. “It’s really unfortunate to see this targeted graffiti against the bylaw officers.
“Here in Victoria and in cities across the country, because of the pandemic people are living outside. There’s nowhere else for the people to go, they have no homes, they have no shelters, and our bylaw staff and our parks staff are on the front lines.”
A bylaw worker was in a city truck Tuesday in Beacon Hill Park when a man smashed out the window with a sledgehammer.
A suspect was apprehended by police. No one was hurt.
Helps said the graffiti spree was an ill-advised attempt to make a statement that she described as “incoherently communicated.”
“There are lots of ways to get your message across,” she said. “You can Tweet, you can go on Facebook, you can send an email, you can come to council.
“You can tell us all those things you think about Beacon Hill and about bylaw [enforcement] without spray-painting and defacing public property.”
Helps said parks remain safe for the public to use, noting she runs through Beacon Hill Park regularly and sees the playground getting plenty of use.
“Going for a stroll through the park, talking your kids to the playground, biking through the park — it is safe to do that.”
But she said it can be difficult for staff to work in parks when people are camping there. “They do have to sometimes have interactions with people who are living there and that leads to tensions.”
Victoria Police Chief Del Manak said investigation of the graffiti spree is still in its early stages, and there are no suspects yet. Police are asking anyone with video footage from the area to come forward, Manak said.
The police chief said cleaning up the graffiti will be an extra burden for businesses that are already struggling because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Like Helps, Manak praised the work of bylaw staffers, saying they combine wellness checks of people in the parks with their regular activities.
Call Victoria police at 250-995-7654 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) with any information about the graffiti spree.