February 21, 2013 - 4:25 PM
The B.C. government wants to put the power in the hands of the people with a proposed safety act that enables the public to submit confidential complaints about threatening, illegal or unsafe activities occurring in their neighbourhood.
If passed, the Community Safety Act will result in a new provincial unit charged with investigating, mediating and working with property owners to curb negative activities, by taking steps to force the property owner in a substantiated claim to address identified issues.
If a problem persists, the unit could then apply for a community safety order through civil court which could bar some individuals from the property, or even close it up for 90 days.
The proposed act is similar to legislation already in force in Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and the Yukon. A press release from the province of B.C. states other provinces saw identified problems cease without court involvement, with less than one per cent of complaints leading to an application for a community safety order.
B.C.'s act will target the site of specific criminal nuisance activities, including drug production and trafficking, prostitution, unlawful liquor sales (i.e. illegal after-hours establishments and sales of liquor to minors), child abuse, possession of unlawful weapons or explosives, and activities conducted by or on behalf of gangs and organized crime.
Unlike criminal laws, the new civil legislation will target properties where the occupants may change frequently, but problems persist and the property owners fail to take effective action to stop them. The new unit will also differ from B.C.'s Civil Forfeiture Office, which does not conduct investigations and acts on case referrals from police rather than reports from the public.
The government doesn't expect to set budget and timeline details until later in 2013, if the legislation passes.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013