BRITISH Columbia will empower people to feel safer reporting drug labs and other nuisance properties linked to gun and gang violence and give authorities more powers to shut down those sites, the Province announced on Thursday.
The Community Safety Act (CSA) focuses on targeting the sites of an array of activities conducted by or on behalf of gangs and organized crime. The CSA was originally unanimously passed in 2013 but was never brought into force.
“People who have criminals operating on the streets, where they live and work, deserve to know that they can speak up and remain safe,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “In turn, authorities need the teeth to shut down dangerous properties, quickly and for good. Today’s legislation is designed to achieve both of these important goals while also protecting innocent parties, like landlords victimized by criminal tenants.”
The proposed amendments to, and implementation of, the CSA will enable anyone to submit a confidential complaint to a provincial government unit that will enforce the act. As appropriate, this unit will investigate, collaborate with property owners and take escalating steps – up to ending tenancy agreements or closing a property for up to 90 days. This will help prevent changes in tenancy from allowing criminal activity to persist at a particular location.
Specified nuisance or criminal activities include drug production and trafficking, possession of illegal firearms or explosives, after-hours sales of liquor, providing liquor or drugs to minors.
“People living near ‘crack shacks’ and other dangerous nuisance properties have been waiting more than half a decade for this law to actually help them,” said Farnworth. “We’ve moved quickly to modernize the act to address the current realities of organized crime in B.C., and to ensure that it’s fair, efficient and minimizes administrative burden.”
In the five other provinces and one territory with similar laws in place, most complaints are resolved without the need for application for a community safety order.
“There are properties that see hundreds of 911 calls for service because of an ever-changing group of criminals and offenders operating at those locations,” said RCMP Superintendent Ted de Jager, President, BC Association of Chiefs of Police. “The experiences of other jurisdictions with community safety laws show that working with the property owners can bring about lasting solutions benefiting public safety.”
* Complainants’ safety is a paramount consideration in the CSA. All complaints and complainants’ identities are strictly confidential.
* Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Yukon have legislation similar to the CSA in force.