Victoria police are looking for the man who assaulted a 64-year-old woman as she was taking a photo of a dog in the Burnside-Gorge area Thursday.
The woman was tending to her community garden plot outside the Burnside Gorge Community Centre around 2 p.m. when she spotted a black Labrador sitting alone by the ravine, said Victoria police spokesman Bowen Osoko.
The woman told police she was concerned for the dog’s safety and wondered whether it was lost. She approached the dog and was using her phone to take some photos when she was suddenly assaulted by a stranger from behind.
The man pushed the woman to the ground, took her phone and threw it into the ravine, police said.
The woman took refuge inside the community centre.
She told police that the man and a woman went into a nearby tent, which they quickly packed up. The pair left the area before police arrived, taking the dog with them.
The man is described as white, in his early 20s and five-foot-six with a slim build. He was wearing a football jersey with the number 44 on the back, and a baseball hat and shorts. The woman he was with had pink hair and a crop top and was riding an orange bicycle.
Police said the victim suffered non-life-threatening injuries and declined medical attention.
Her phone was recovered but was damaged beyond repair, Osoko said.
Rachel O’Neill, manager of communications and development for the Burnside Gorge Community Association, assisted the woman when she came in the community centre.
She said the woman is a longtime member of the association’s community garden program, which rents out plots to people in the area.
“It’s terribly upsetting to have any community member experiencing violence in the neighbourhood,” she said.
Neighbours have expressed concern about a growing number of tents located in Cecelia Ravine Park near the Galloping Goose trail, and police have deployed more officers to the Burnside-Gorge neighbourhood in response to increases in violent crime, property crime and social disorder.
O’Neill, who is also the co-ordinator for the community gardens, said she has seen an increase in vandalism, people breaking into the gardens and stealing items, and damage to fencing.
“We are definitely seeing an increase in social disorder in the garden, which is really hard for gardeners and community members who are pouring their love and heart into the garden,” she said. “And to experience a violation in that way is really troubling for folks.”
Residents have said the neighbourhood has more than its share of temporary supportive housing facilities providing shelter for people previously living in tents at Topaz Park and along Pandora Avenue.
Those include the former Travelodge on Gorge Road East, the former Comfort Inn on Blanshard Street and the former Paul’s Motor Inn on Douglas Street. All have attracted police and the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team for calls relating to weapons or replica firearms.
Police ask anyone who witnessed the assault near the community centre, recognizes the suspect or has any information about the incident to call the non-emergency line at 250-995-7654, extension 1, or Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).