The Abbotsford Police Department is warning the public against committing further acts of vigilantism after the residence of a convicted child sex offender was intentionally flooded early Saturday morning, causing the ceiling to collapse.
Const. Ian MacDonald said police received a report at around 2 a.m. about the flooding of the home on Joanita Place in the Bradner area of northwest Abbotsford.
The house is occupied by sex offender James Conway – whose presence in the neighbourhood was the subject of two previous protest rallies – as well as another offender and their caregiver.
All three were in the home at the time of this morning’s incident, but nobody was injured.
MacDonald said when police arrived, they discovered that someone had unscrewed some lights on the exterior of the property and had run a hose from the roof into the attic.
Police estimate that the water had been running for about two hours, leading the ceiling to collapse.
MacDonald said the incident is the most serious in a string of mischief-type crimes that have been committed on the property since Conway moved there at the beginning of August.
He said other incidents include a water valve being encased in concrete, a gate at the home being padlocked, rocks thrown at the residence, threatening letters attached to the gate, and “borderline threats” being yelled as people drive by.
MacDonald said security cameras are in place on the property, and the footage will be reviewed for evidence.
The person responsible for the flooding could face a potential charge of mischief over $5,000 and other offences, he added.
MacDonald said police have now installed their own video surveillance cameras in the neighbourhood in hopes of deterring further such activity.
He said such behaviour by residents is “disappointing” because it ties up police resources when the reports have to be investigated.
During the most recent rally held in the neighbourhood, Mayor Henry Braun informed residents that city staff believed that Conway’s residence was being used outside of its permitted zoning designation for agricultural and residential uses, and the occupants were being asked to leave.
However, Braun said it could take some time to resolve the issue.
MacDonald said police understand the concerns of neighbours, but urged citizens to wait for that matter to proceed.
“We’re asking everybody to be engaged in that process as reasonable people. Clearly, what we have here is more in the vigilante (realm),” he said.
MacDonald said he didn’t know whether the occupants are able to continue living in the residence following the flooding.
Dave Mantin of the Sexual Abuse Network of Canada said he has been in touch with people concerned about Conway’s residency to inform them of legal avenues they can take to get him to leave their neighbourhood.
He said his organization has been successful in moving 40 sexual offenders across Canada in the last five years to areas where children are not located.
Mantin said these moves have mostly been done through civil court proceedings in which neighbours have sought restraining orders against the offenders.
He said his organization does not condone vigilante behaviour.
“The problem is you’re making him (Conway) the victim … Good people are going to go to jail over this,” he said.