The British Columbia government has put a target on neighbourhood properties linked to guns, gangs and drugs activities, the public safety minister said Thursday.
Mike Farnworth introduced legislation that empowers people to report alleged illegal activities in their neighbourhoods and gives authorities more clout to shut down those sites.
He said the Community Safety Act, if passed, would allow people to submit confidential complaints about alleged activities occurring at properties to a government unit that would investigate and enforce the act.
Farnworth said the unit would collaborate with neighbours and take escalating steps that would include ending tenancy agreements and closing the property for up to 90 days.
“What it means is there will be an enforcement unit that will have the ability to do a very fast, very quick investigation and have the tools, working with local government, to be able to stop whatever illegal activity is taking place,” he said at a news conference after introducing the legislation.
“We all know the kinds of properties we’re talking about,” said Farnworth.
The nuisance or criminal activities include drug production, trafficking, possession of illegal firearms or explosives, after-hours sales of liquor and providing liquor or drugs to minors, he said.
“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 in a statement, adding the former Liberal government passed similar legislation in 2013 but it never was proclaimed as a law.
Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Yukon have legislation similar to B.C.’s proposed Community Safety Act, Farnworth said.
RCMP Supt. Ted de Jager, president of the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police, said similar community safety laws in other parts of Canada show that working with property owners can benefit public safety.
“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,” de Jager said in a statement.
Story by Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press