Two vehicles belonging to White Rock Coun. Helen Fathers were vandalized overnight Friday.
And while police so far are not drawing a link to increasing tensions over the city’s tree bylaw, Fathers can’t help but wonder if someone upset with recent decisions chose to take their frustrations out on her.
“When you’re dealing with an issue, it’s really hard to not see a connection,” Fathers said Monday. “I can’t help but feel targeted.”
Fathers and her husband woke Saturday to discover their Mazda truck and Honda Civic had both been spray-painted. As well, two tires on the truck and one on the car had been punctured. The Civic was parked in the driveway of their Lee Street home at the time; the truck, on the road out front.
The damage – which occurred between 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday – comes barely a month after council approved the removal of three trees on Royal Avenue in response to neighbours’ concerns the trees were obscuring their views, and less than a day after a crumbled “white, brick-like material” – believed to be similar to pool chemicals – was found at the base of one of those trees.
Police are investigating both incidents, but say at this point there is no evidence the two are connected.
“Whether (the Royal Avenue incident) is tied to the councillor, that’s really a stretch,” Sgt. Roland Pierschke said.
“As far as I’m concerned right now, they’re not related. There’s nothing to tie them together.”
Pierschke described the vandalism as “a vicious attack.”
However, he said, there is nothing to indicate other councillors should be concerned.
“There’s nothing to suggest someone’s going after council,” Pierschke said. “Nothing to suggest she’s targeted.”
Regardless, White Rock Mayor Catherine Ferguson confirmed she has advised all councillors to “be a little bit more vigilant,” just in case.
“We don’t know that it… 100 per cent is a targeted incident, but it appears to be,” Ferguson said. “We have to take note when it does happen.”
Pierschke said police have increased patrols of Fathers’ neighbourhood in response to the damage.
Friday – prior to the vehicle vandalism – the city’s director of engineering and municipal operations predicted the chemical dumping would only escalate already high tensions.
“The trees on that site are an emotional issue with the owner and with the people in the neighbourhood, and this will just exacerbate the current levels of emotions,” Rob Thompson told Peace Arch News.
Thompson is hopeful ongoing talks with the affected parties will find a compromise.
“I would really like for a solution to be agreed upon and arrived at to allow all the parties to move past this. It’s almost like an illness in the city that I would like to find a cure for.”
Royal Avenue resident Paul Wilkes said he, too, is concerned. If the chemical dump was a deliberate attempt to kill the trees, “I’m a bit afraid what they’re going to try next,” he said.
Fathers – who along with Ferguson was absent for the vote on the Royal Avenue trees – described the vandalism to her vehicles as “a little bit alarming,” and said if it was done out of anger over the tree issue, there are more effective ways to express that.
“There’s a phone number on the (city) website. I prefer people to talk about things,” she said.
Fathers said more talk is needed regarding the city’s tree policy, to ensure it is legal and that it gives both sides of an application equal representation.
As the policy is now, “there’s some amendments that need to happen,” Fathers said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re being fair to both sides.”
City manager Peggy Clark confirmed Tuesday the policy is being reviewed by the city’s lawyer – a step that wasn’t taken prior to its adoption last June 28.
The policy was based on the city’s tree-management bylaw (adopted May 3, 2010), which was vetted by the lawyer, she explained.
Clark expects to hear back from the lawyer regarding the policy by the end of this week. The feedback will be given to council in a closed meeting, and it will be up to council members to decide whether to make the information public, she said.
Fathers said the incident is the first in her family’s 10 years at the property. And while she is not scared by it, she is taking steps, including changing her contact information on the city’s website, to list her cellphone number instead of her home number.
Pierschke encouraged anyone with information on either incident to contact police at 778-593-3600. To report information anonymously, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.