One of several pieces of public art located in Abbotsford's historic downtown core has gone missing.
The Bookworm, valued at about $6,000, was taken from the corner of Pauline Street and Essendene Avenue sometime in the last week, according to Abbotsford Police Const. Ian MacDonald.
The four-by-five-foot solid-wood sculpture, created by master woodworker Scott Robertson, depicts a bookworm reading an open book. It was co-sponsored by the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA) and Prospera Credit Union in 2001, and donated to the city.
It is one of nine "bench art" pieces located in the downtown area.
MacDonald said the sculpture was reported missing by staff of the ADBA and the parks, recreation and culture department, which conducts routine inspections and maintenance of public art pieces in the community.
ADBA president Tina Stewart said she first became aware of the theft on Friday, and then asked merchants in the area if they had seen anything suspicious.
One woman reported having seen a man cart the bench away last Tuesday or Wednesday on a pellet jack, but it was in broad daylight and she assumed he was taking it away for repairs.
"Everybody's pretty shocked and nobody can understand why anybody would take it. It doesn't seem to make any sense at all," Stewart said.
MacDonald said police believe the incident is a theft and not a prank.
He said the size and weight of the piece means it is likely that at least two people moved it. They would have needed a vehicle and tools capable of cutting through large bolts in order to remove it.
Police are not surprised that the piece was taken during the day, MacDonald said.
"Sometimes when people are acting very conspicuously, they can seem not conspicuous at all," he said.
MacDonald said it's not likely that the thieves would try to sell the sculpture. Rather, police believe they could have placed it in their yard or in their home as a conversation piece.
The project was unveiled in 2002 by the artist, who worked closely with students from North Poplar Elementary to design the bench.
Two short stories are written on the open pages. One side gives a history of North Poplar school and the other recounts the background of Prospera Credit Union.
More than 300 students from North Poplar signed their names on the bench.
Eleven days after it was unveiled, the worm was stolen from the project but was returned a short time later. Stewart hopes the same thing happens this time.
"It would be nice if it came back home," she said.
Anyone with information about the theft is asked to contact the Abbotsford Police Department at 604-859-5225 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.