While driving through Chinatown on Sunday, Norman Fox pulled over to take a phone call and noticed an unusual sight: There was a man standing atop the awning of a building at East Pender and Columbia streets, using some kind of tool on the decorative dragon streetlamp .

An urban photographerFox took out his camera and snapped a few shots of the scene, noting the other man using a leaf blower on the sidewalk.

Fox was on his way to a meeting, so he left before he could see how the situation ended.

“I assumed it was a city worker up on the balcony there,” he told CTV News on Wednesday.

As time went by, however, he found himself thinking more about the strange scene.

“There seemed to be something off about it,” he recalled.

Looking at his photos later, Fox suspected what he had photographed wasn’t maintenance work, but a crime in progress. The men didn’t have any uniforms or visible safety equipment, and there was no city vehicle parked around the corner or warning sign for pedestrians set up.

“He literally has a hacksaw,” Fox said of the man working on the dragon. “He’s sawing at it with a hacksaw.”

Fox posted some of his photos on Twittertheorizing that the man with the leaf blower was using it to cover the sound of the saw.

He told CTV News he thinks the men’s plan was to remove the dragon from the lamp post, lower it to the sidewalk on a chain that is visible in the photos, and wheel it away on a cart.

Fox said his tweet garnered a much bigger response than his posts normally receive, with many responses expressing frustration at the brazenness of the apparent theft attempt, as well as the general state of crime in Chinatown.

In March, the neighborhood’s business improvement association revealed it has been spending 50 per cent of its budget on security. Vancouver city councilors recently passed a motion aimed at improving public safety in the neighbourhood.

Fox said people replying to his tweet seemed “disillusioned.”

“People are pretty fed up, obviously, with the criminal behavior down there,” Fox said, adding that he doesn’t think an incident like this can be blamed on mental illness, addiction or homelessness, as crimes in the area sometimes are.

“This is planned criminal behaviour,” he said. “These guys put a lot of thought into this.”

The Vancouver Police Department told CTV News it did not receive any calls about the incident on Sunday, but learned about what had happened through social media.

Police said they have now opened an investigation.

Fox said he hasn’t contacted police about the incident and hadn’t been contacted by them as of Wednesday afternoon.

In an email, a spokesperson for the City of Vancouver confirmed that there were no city employees hired to work on the lamp post on Sunday.

“We are shocked and dismayed to hear of the attempted destruction of one of the iconic dragon street lights on Pender Street in Chinatown,” the city’s statement reads.

“These lights are compelling and culturally significant design elements in this historic neighborhood. We recognize that Chinatown is facing an increase in graffiti and vandalism, and are committed to working internally across city departments, and with the council-appointed Legacy Stewardship Group, community partners , BIAs, key stakeholders and other levels of government to improve safety and livability in the neighbourhood.”

The street lamp was damaged during the incident, and the city said it would be removed on Wednesday for repairs, which are expected to take about a week.


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