Glass on Vancouver steam clock smashed amid heightened concern about violence, vandalism

The iconic steam clock in Vancouver's Gastown neighbourhood was behind caution tape this weekend after the glass on one side of it was smashed.

Twitter user @Vantics shared a photo of the damage Saturday evening, saying the photo was taken around 5 p.m. 

It was not immediately clear whether the damage was an intentional act of vandalism or if it occurred in some other way.

In an email to CTV News, the City of Vancouver said staff "are securing the area around the steam clock to ensure it is safe and assessing the damage to determine next steps."

The city did not answer questions about the cause of the damage, saying only that more information would be available "in the coming days."

The Vancouver Police Department issued a statement Sunday afternoon saying it has launched an investigation "to determine if someone intentionally damaged the clock."

"VPD’s Forensic Identification Unit was dispatched Sunday to collect evidence, and patrol investigators are canvassing for witnesses and security video," police said.

The damage to the well-known tourist attraction comes against a backdrop of heightened attention on crime in the city, particularly in and around the downtown core.

Last week, Vancouver's city council held a special meeting on public safety, at which it heard from numerous speakers concerned about violence and vandalism, including some who said the city's reputation had begun to suffer

“That global reputation and even our domestic reputation is under increasing threat,” said Royce Chwin, president of Destination Vancouver, at the meeting.

“For example, on a recent sales mission to bring business to Vancouver, I and my team are increasingly getting these questions - is it safe there?”

Bridgitte Anderson, the president and CEO of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, had similar concerns, and added that member businesses have been voicing frustration with public safety "for months."

The Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association has said crime is holding back the city's progress on its economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

So many people signed up to speak at the special council meeting that it was continued to May 10.

The most recent data released by the Vancouver Police Department shows a 6.8 per cent increase in property crime in the first quarter of 2022 when compared to 2021. If compared to the average in a "pre-pandemic period" from 2017 to 2019, the rate has decreased by 22.3 per cent.

District 1, which includes Gastown, saw the biggest increase in property crime when comparing this year and last, with a jump of 16.4 per cent.

City-wide, there have been 1,255 reports of mischief in 2022, a 4.1 per cent increase from the same time last year. Compared to the three-year, pre-pandemic average, reports of these crimes are up 9.4 per cent.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Lisa Steacy