Pubdate: Fri, 22 Feb 2013
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2013 Times Colonist
Author: Rob Shaw


Frustrated neighbours of crack shacks, drug dens and other troublesome
properties will soon be able to make confidential complaints to a
government office that can shut down the sites.

Justice Minister Shirley Bond said the new office, introduced in the
legislature on Thursday, would investigate troublesome properties, and
get owners to clean up their act and deal with neighbourhood complaints.

"Imagine for a moment that there is a crack shack on the street where
you live," Bond said. "The problem started with vehicles coming and
going all hours of the day and night, people yelling on the sidewalks
late at night, maybe you witnessed used syringes or drug paraphernalia
on the lawn =C2=85 You, of course, called the police, who kept showing up

to investigate and make arrests.

"But even though the characters might change, the problems don't go
away. We intend to give neighbours of properties like these a safe and
effective and timely solution, one that holds property owners
accountable when dangerous and threatening activities regularly occur
on their property."

A new provincial director of community safety will accept anonymous
complaints and investigate properties such as party houses, marijuana
grow-ops, prostitution sites, drug-trafficking operations, gang
hangouts and anywhere liquor or weapons are unlawfully possessed, the
government said.

The office has the power to send warning letters and apply to a court
for a community safety order.

With a court order, the government can evict troublesome tenants,
erect fences, install locks, alter property without consent and
shutter an entire site for up to 90 days, according to the bill tabled
in the legislature.

Complaints are confidential, and if the identity of a person
complaining is known, it can't be shared with police, the courts or
anyone else without permission, the proposed act says. The landlord or
property owner gets a bill for the government's work.

Police praised the move and said problem properties can be a source of

"For us to go to a home that's being used as a crack shack and the
landlord is absentee, which they are the vast majority of times, this
allows some pressure to be put on the landlord to clean up their act,
especially if it's an ongoing problem," said Saanich Police Chief Mike

In Saanich, the biggest problem is absentee landlords who "turn a
blind eye as much as they can" to the drug and criminal activity of
their tenants, Chadwick said.

The property is rented again and again to the same type of people,
despite arrests, he said.

The proposed law says landlords and owners who don't comply with
orders are subject to a $10,000 fine and six months in jail.

The fine rises to $100,000 for repeat offences if the owner or
landlord is a corporation.

NDP critic Bruce Ralston said the idea is almost identical to a bill
he introduced in 2009, but which the Liberal government did not
support. It's a useful tool for police and neighbours, and it's likely
the Opposition will support the bill's passage into law, he said.

Other Canadian provinces have similar offices in place, Bond said.
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