Police are looking for one or more people after a suspected explosive device tied up traffic in downtown Victoria for nine hours Wednesday.

The 500-block of Yates Street was shut down and nearby businesses were evacuated just before noon after the suspicious package was discovered in of the Yates Street parkade.

The incident tied up traffic in the area until around 8:30 p.m., when police used a bomb squad robot sent from the Lower Mainland to detonate the package with two controlled blasts.

“The device itself was an inert device but something that caused concern to police officers trained in bomb detection,” said Victoria police’s acting spokesman Bowen Osoko. “That’s the reason for the response, why the response was so robust.”

Osoko said investigators are now looking for a person or persons who could’ve left the seemingly dangerous device in a busy public parkade.

The device caused a waiting game that Victoria has seen before.

Local police have resources including a bomb-sniffing dog, a specialized robot and an X-ray to identify explosive devices, but they don’t have equipment to destroy them.

That means a specially trained Vancouver bomb team must take the ferry over if the situation calls for detonation.

“We’re not going to close off a downtown street for nine hours for idle speculation,” said Osoko.

The Royal Canadian Navy based at CFB Esquimalt is also trained to deal with detonations, but needs federal approval for civilian operations – which doesn’t come quick.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps says she doesn’t see the need to have a bomb squad similar to Vancouver’s for the relatively few times these situations occur in the Capital Region.

“I’d want to know data. I’d want to know how many times do these incidents happen?” she said. “It’s a really poor way to make decisions about spending tax dollars being reactive to one incident.”

She said bringing more bomb squads to the region would mean raising taxes and amalgamating CRD police.

Helps praised police and city staff for their response to the hours-long incident, saying parking ambassadors were doing whatever it took to help people with cars trapped inside the parkade.

“There was a great response, and the police did a great job. Our staff did an amazing job,” she said. “We had our parking ambassadors driving people home. One guy was going to be late for work in Mill Bay…so we drove him up to Mill Bay.”

All parking fees were waived for those with vehicles trapped in the parkade and city staff also handed out bus passes and taxi vouchers for those affected.

Police say they’re treating the incident seriously and the investigation into the person or persons who left the device is ongoing. 

With a report from CTV Vancouver Island's Scott Cunningham