Vancouver police are calling on witnesses to report suspicious activity around churches, following a major spike in vandalism at religious properties this summer.
Police said Thursday they are concerned these incidents could escalate into a situation where someone could get badly hurt.
Since June 2, there have been 13 incidents of mischief and vandalism at churches, including rocks being thrown through windows, buildings being defaced with paint, and threats being made to set buildings on fire, Sgt. Steve Addison of the VPD said in a release.
Since news broke in late May of the discovery of what are believed to be the remains of 215 children in unmarked graves at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, five churches have burned to the ground on First Nations land around the province, including four old Catholic churches and one Anglican church.
On Monday, the St. George Coptic Orthodox Church in Surrey burned down in what RCMP called a suspicious fire.
“Fortunately, nobody has been hurt in these Vancouver incidents and most of the damage has been minor,” Addison said in a release.
“However, 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.”
Recent incidents of note include a church building near Little Mountain being vandalized on June 8 by four people dressed in black, police said. Red paint was thrown on the building, and painted graffiti and posted signs referenced residential schools.
In addition, an unknown person threatened to burn down a church in South Vancouver on Canada Day; two women threw orange paint on the side of a church in Renfrew-Collingwood at around 10:45 p.m. on Canada Day; someone threw a rock through the window of a church in Kitsilano sometime between July 4 and July 7; and the pastor of a South Cambie church was making his early-morning rounds on July 20 when he discovered a gallon of lighter fluid and rags near the side of the building at 4 a.m. He told police he also saw a suspicious man standing in the middle of the road staring at the church.