DCN ARCHIVES

August 8, 2006

Activist Vandalism

Disturbing trend toward attacks on building sites

Earth Liberation Front blamed

What John Gautreau remembers most was the care taken to deliver the message.

“They went to the time to write it backwards so the (equipment) operator could read it,” said the site supervisor for London-based Hayman Construction Inc.

The message, “something like ‘save the earth,’” said Gautreau, was smeared with grease on the window of an excavator.

It was just one of several destructive acts workers at a Home Depot construction site in London’s east end discovered when they arrived for work July 21.

The damage, which also included bags of cement that had been opened and poured into excavation equipment fuel tanks, was enough to shut down construction activity for the day.

“All the excavation equipment was down,” he said.

On Tuesday July 25 at the future home of a Toyota dealership in the city’s south end, the scene was eerily similar.

“The first thing I saw was flat tires - tires slashed,” said Doug LeLacheur, Hayman’s site superintendent for that project.

As others arrived at the work site and began starting their equipment they soon discovered “sand, gravel and what not where they shouldn’t be (in fuel tanks),” he said.

The two were among 11 construction sites vandalized in London in the last two weeks of July.

Damage resulting exceeded $100,000 at different sites,” said London Police Service Const. Kevin Lui.

The rash of activity “is unusual as in there are several sites and such a large amount of damage costwise done in such a short period of time,” Lui said.

Vandals did not focus their activity on one specific location in the city or a specific contractor, or a specific type of construction activity, he added.

The activity in London follows hot on the heels of similar incidents in Brantford, Toronto and Guelph earlier last month.

The Earth Liberation Front, an environmental activist group, claimed responsibility for some of those incidents.

However, in London’s case “we have little or no suspect information,” said Lui, adding no one has come forward to claim responsibility for the vandalism.

“We are obviously investigating all suspect leads,” he said.

London police are working with other services across the province on the issue, said the services’ spokesperson, Amanda Pfeffer.

“We always do (work in conjunction with other services) when we see a trend developing,” she said.

John Rasenberg, president of the London and District Construction Association, said vandalism and theft have always been issues for construction sites but the latest incidents have really brought them to the forefront.

“In construction we’re quite vulnerable,” he said, pointing out the sites are isolated because people rarely live on them. “It’s very frustrating.”

Rasenberg said the London association would discuss the issue at its next board meeting.

Meanwhile, at Hayman Construction sites, effort will be made to step up security, said Michael Hayman, one of the company’s owners.

They’ll be making sure their sites are better lit, particularly where equipment is stored and introduce other measures Hayman wanted to keep confidential.

But protection will have to be within reason, he said.

“There’s a certain amount you can do but to totally fence in sites and have full time security guards is too expensive to be practical,” he said.

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