Pubdate: Fri, 17 Oct 2008
Source: Airdrie City View (CN AB)
Copyright: 2008 Airdrie City View Ltd.
Author: Rob Anderson


Over the past month, I have had the privilege of assisting our
government prepare and roll out a new piece of legislation called the
Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, otherwise known as SCAN.

SCAN is a program designed to give every Albertan an opportunity to
contribute to crime reduction. It empowers all of us to help take back
our communities from those who would otherwise pedal drugs, enable
prostitution, exploit children, and introduce other criminal
activities into our neighborhoods.

SCAN is by no means a silver bullet. It should be viewed for what it
is. One more tool to be used by law enforcement and each of us in our
goal to make our neighborhoods safer and more secure.

The SCAN program works as follows. To start off, there will be two
teams of seven sheriffs and investigators - one located in Calgary,
the other in Edmonton. We will expand to smaller cities and rural
areas as the program progresses. Neighbours or landlords who are
concerned that tenants or residents may be using a property for
illegal activities (such as for drug selling, child exploitation,
prostitution, etc.) can report the problem property by phoning the
SCAN unit's tollfree number: 1-866-960-SCAN (1-866-960-7226). All
reports will be kept confidential so as to protect the name and
information of the informant.

Upon receiving a report of the problem property, the SCAN unit will
begin an investigation. Investigators will first meet with the
property owner to try and solve the problem, or, if circumstances
warrant, send a warning letter to the property owner, landlord, or the
person who lives at the property.

If that fails to shut down the illegal activity, the SCAN team will
apply to a court for a newly created Community Safety Order. This
court order can close the property (or prohibit certain individuals
from entering the property) for a period of up to 90 days.

Of course, any criminal activity uncovered when dealing with these
properties will be turned over to the police for further investigation
or charges.

One of the most frustrating problems for police and community members,
is that even when a person is charged with a criminal offense, the
thug is often released on bail and continues his or her illegal
activity while awaiting trial.

And even if, after many months, that individual is put behind bars,
other criminal elements move into the same location to takeover the
illegal business. The SCAN legislation addresses this by targeting the
properties being used for illegal purposes, rather than the criminals
themselves. And because SCAN is civil legislation, the test in court
is "balance of probabilities" as opposed to criminal law, in which the
test is "beyond a reasonable doubt." This makes it easier and quicker
for law enforcement to shut the property down, regardless of how any
related criminal proceedings may fare.

Again, SCAN is not a panacea. However, similar legislation has been
proven effective in other jurisdictions, and I am confident that it
will have similar results here. It is time for each us to do our part
in making our communities more safe. SCAN is a new and innovative tool
we can use to accomplish just that.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin