Vancouver police say crimes at churches on the rise

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Vancouver police say they’re dealing with a spike in crimes at churches, citing 13 incidents of mischief or vandalism since June 2. They include rocks thrown through windows, buildings defaced with paint and graffiti, and threats of setting buildings on fire.

Specialized investigators from the department’s Property Crime Unit are seeing if all these incidents are linked.

No one has been hurt in these incidents, and no arrests have been made yet.

“We’re reminding people to be proactive and to report anything unusual at church properties, because we’re concerned this could escalate into a situation where someone gets badly hurt,” said Sgt. Steve Addison. “If you see anyone who looks suspicious and you think they’re about to commit a crime, please don’t hesitate to call 9-1-1.”

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On June 8, police say a church near Little Mountain was vandalized by four people. It happened around 9 p.m., with police saying the people were seen throwing red paint on the property, as well as posting signs and spraying graffiti referencing residential schools.

Days later, on Canada Day, the VPD says two women threw orange paint on a church in the Renfrew-Collingwood area.

There was also an incident at a church on July 20. Police say the pastor of the South Cambie church was making early-morning rounds at about 4 a.m. when he found a gallon of lighter fluid and rags near the side of the building. Police say the pastor also reported seeing a “suspicious man standing in the middle of the road staring at the church.”

While no injuries have been reported, the VPD says concerns are mounting. Police add while many of these crimes have taken place in the early morning or late at night, “many churches and church properties are occupied both day and night, and these crimes could put people in danger.”

“We’re growing more concerned each day by the escalation of these crimes and their brazen nature, and we’re calling on the people responsible for these crimes to stop. There are more productive ways to voice your anger and express your views,” said Addison.

There have been a series of churches set on fire across Canada in recent months. They come amid discoveries of unmarked graves at former residential schools sites.

Anyone with information about any of these incidents is asked to contact the VPD at 604-717-0613.

Read More: Fundraiser set up for Surrey church destroyed by fire

Meanwhile, a residential school survivor is urging the public to stop vandalizing churches.

Alex Watts, who spent two years at two different residential schools as a child, says the vandalism is not doing anyone any good.

“They’re angry, they’re upset, they’re frustrated, lost loved ones never made it home, and they’re still more out there. I get it and I understand… I hope that you guys, all of you to stop this. I mean, there are other ways of showing your frustration,” Watts says.

Instead, Watts is urging those angry over the unmarked graves and residential schools to reach out to the federal government.

“Say, ‘Hey, you guys are responsible, for you built the schools,’ and that reconciliation needs to be put to action rather than talking about it. Come and see us and say what can we do to help,” he says. “Money is such a small little fraction. Ask us what we need, what do you want, so we can move forward.”

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