Increasingly in our neighbourhoods there are problem properties where persistent, unlawful and dangerous activities threaten neighbourhood safety and security.
These properties may be derelict, or the site of criminal and nuisance activities such as drug production and trafficking, prostitution, unlawful liquor sales, child abuse, unlawful weapons or explosives, and activities conducted by gangs and organized crime.
Now, new provincial legislation introduced on February 21, 2013 promises to target and shut down these properties which:
- adversely affect the health, safety or security of one or more persons in the community or neighbourhood
- interfere with the peaceful enjoyment of one or more of the properties in the community or neighbourhood.
The Community Safety Act, if passed, will enable residents who are adversely affected to submit complaints to a new community safety unit.
Community Safety Unit
This unit, staffed with a director of community safety, will have the authority to investigate and mediate complaints and work with the owners of problem properties to resolve complaints.
The legislation targets properties where the occupants may frequently change, but the problem activities persist, and the property owners fail to take effective action to stop them.
If problems continue, a community safety order may be granted, which could potentially bar named individuals from the property or end occupancy for up to 90 days.
If problems persist, the director of community safety has the authority to levy fines for:
Individuals – a fine of up to $10,000 and six months in prison for a first offence, and up to $25,000 and one year in prison for subsequent convictions.
Corporations – a fine of up to $25 000, and a fine of up to $100,000 for subsequent convictions.
The new legislation would provide local governments with an additional tool to respond directly to residents’ concerns about safe communities.
Similar legislation is in force in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Yukon.
“This legislation is about giving residents a simple, timely, safe way to report properties of concern and help make their streets safer,” said the Hon. Shirley Bond, Minister of Justice and Attorney General.
“We still want residents to report criminal activity to the police. But sometimes, even when police make arrests, problems continue at a specific address. This proposed legislation will fill a gap, enhancing public safety by forcing landlords to deal with chronic, illegal and dangerous behaviour on their properties,” explained Minister Bond.
The proposed Community Safety Act is available at: www.leg.bc.ca/39th5th/votes/progress-of-bills.htm
To learn more and provide feedback visit: www.familiesfirstbc.ca