Why should the province waste money and resources on a program to shut down crack shacks, drug dens and other troublesome places? It’s not that big of a problem.
Unless you live next to one of those places, or your children have to walk by one on the way to school.
The B.C. Liberal government has introduced legislation Wednesday that would allow people to make confidential reports to an agency that could investigate problem properties and evict tenants or shut them down, if necessary. Landlords of property where nasty stuff continues to happen could be held accountable.
Police investigate and make arrests, but often those arrested are simply replaced by more bad characters doing the same things. This tends to happen in less-prosperous neighbourhoods, contributing to a downward spiral in the quality of life for law-abiding people of modest means.
The proposed provincial director of community safety could take over where the police leave off. Even without convictions on trafficking or other charges, that agency could obtain a court order to empty a house that has been used for illegal purposes and board it up for 90 days, a sort of disinfecting process, if you will.
Similar legislation is in place in other provinces, and while there have been understandable concerns about civil rights, it’s a program that has garnered praise.
In a southwest Calgary neighbourhood a couple of years ago, residents were relieved to see a house boarded up after it had been the scene of numerous drug arrests. One man said he had found drug addicts in his yard, and that his eight-year-old son had been witness to scenes of police arriving at the house with guns drawn. He said he was pleased to see the authorities move on the house.
Nova Scotia’s Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act was passed several years ago. Since then, hundreds of cases have been investigated and more than 100 eviction orders have been issued.
In one case, six drug-related charges were laid in connection with a particular resident over a three-year period. In one instance, police searching the house found crack cocaine hidden in a child’s crib. A couple with two young children were ordered to leave the house for 70 days, after which the power was shut off and the house boarded up.
The couple appealed the action, but the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia upheld the order. Few of the orders, however, are contested.
Supporters of similar legislation in Manitoba credit it with cleaning up parts of Winnipeg.
We wonder about creating another level of bureaucracy at a time when funding is scarce, costs are being cut and programs are trimmed. Could this responsibility not be given to an existing agency?
Regardless, it’s an effort that has been tried in other regions with some success, and it will likely have the support of the Opposition in the legislature.
New legislation isn’t magically going to make problems go away. In some areas, critics point out these measures don’t prevent crimes, but merely push them to other neighbourhoods without addressing the root causes of crime.
True, but if it’s your neighbourhood being cleaned up, you’re likely to be grateful. Preventing crime and dealing with its causes is another issue. This one is about trying to make communities safer and more livable.
© Copyright 2013