Dispute over tent structure in Beacon Hill Park may have fueled graffiti spree

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Beacon Hill Park camper, Richard, says he’s the one who smashed a Victoria bylaw car with a sledgehammer Tuesday.

He told CHEK News that bylaw officers began removing his shelter and all of his belongings and he snapped.

“They taped off the area, they didn’t give us any notification, they didn’t give us any kind of warning, they just came in here and seized all of our property,” said fellow camper Shea Smith who was in the process of moving to supportive housing when he says some of his belongings were taken.

The City of Victoria says the structure was removed because it wasn’t a shelter and was an unsafe biohazard adding that plenty of notification and opportunities to comply were given.

It also says the camper was given ample opportunity to take his belongings.

Smith says about five people lost belongings and, with tensions rising, he wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what fueled the recent graffiti spree in the city.

READ MORE: Victoria mayor decries vandalism spree, head removed from Queen Elizabeth II bust

“[The campers] don’t have the ability to sit down at a computer and write out their frustrations like everyone else does so this is their only way of communicating, I think, their level of anger and their level of frustration of how they’re being treated,” he said.

The graffiti wasn’t the only act of vandalism discovered on Wednesday.

A black box now covers the spot where a former bust of Queen Elizabeth II stood in Beacon Hill Park, having been found beheaded on Feb. 24.

VicPD says the head is still missing and that they’re still discovering graffiti around the city.

Investigators are emphasizing, however, that they haven’t determined if the two acts of vandalism are connected.

As of Thursday, no arrests had been made in either case.

Police are still looking for surveillance video, particularly in the 600-block of Pandora Avenue and along most of Douglas Street.

On Wednesday, Mayor Lisa Helps said it was a tough situation for everyone.

“[The campers] have no homes they have no shelters and our bylaw staff and our parks staff are on the front line, they’re doing their best in incredibly difficult circumstances, they need to enforce the bylaws because that’s their job,” she said.

With a March 31 deadline looming for campers to be out of parks, the stresses and tensions are only expected to rise.

“You’re literally awaiting a displacement of terrible proportion, obviously you’re losing everything you’re going to lose everything and you can feel that coming down on a deadline, March 31st is the deadline, that’s the anxiety level that people are feeling, every day it grows more and more and more,” said Smith.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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