Ontario Needs Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Legislation

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TBPS Media Handout
TBPS Media Handout

THUNDER BAY – OPINION – Over the past months and years, Thunder Bay Police have been responding trap houses or drug houses. Those are homes or apartments where drug dealers have taken over and local residents are stuck in a cycle of seemingly endless turmoil.

Sources have told NetNewsLedger that the drug dealers often play a game with police moving the drugs around to different locations. That puts a real difficulty in the path of police in securing needed search warrants, and seizing drugs.

There are property owners who have rental units as well taken over by drug dealers, often as reported by Thunder Bay Police as unwanted guests of the tenant.

On April 20th, Thunder Bay Police reported, “Officers with the Uniform Patrol Branch were dispatched to a residential address in the 200 block of Ambrose Street at about 6:20 pm EDT yesterday, following reports of someone possibly being held against their will.

“When police arrived, they learned a male victim had in fact been forced out of their home by suspects believed to be involved in the drug trade”.

Sometimes the situation starts where the drug dealers are selling to a person, who ends up owing them money. They offer to forgive the debt in exchange for taking up a room or the basement in the unit.

There have been cases where that has been the case in Thunder Bay Housing Units in Limbrick and Windsor. There have been numerous police reports of “unwanted persons” in homes, and frequently those issues involve drugs.

Over the past years, quite frequently on NetNewsLedger we have reported on Alberta’s Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods program. The SCAN program empowers authorities to deal effectively with the problem of drug houses.

Alberta and Saskatchewan have Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Legislation in effect. So does New Brunswick.

Ontario does not.

Ontario almost had Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods legislation.

Under the Liberal government, the legislation has passed third reading.

It was Bill 106 back then and the bill itself did not make it past third reading during the parliament session at the time, and then was not re-introduced after the 2011 election. The legislation now appears long forgotten.

Under that proposed legislation now seemingly long forgotten, Ontario officials would have the ability to close down properties where drug trafficking, prostitution, child exploitation, and gang-related crime were occurring.

In Thunder Bay, moves have been made for increased by-law enforcement on trap houses. However the truth is by-law officers are un-armed, and frankly as Thunder Bay Police have been reporting, more handguns have been seized in drug operations.

Sending by-law officers into this battle is not the safest decision possible.

Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods legislation would work to make a difference across our province.

It is a question to be asking political candidates during the election campaign.

What is SCAN?

Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods (SCAN) is a unit of the Alberta Sheriffs that helps keep communities safe by dealing with problem properties that are being used for specific illegal activity such as:

  • drug trafficking
  • prostitution
  • child exploitation
  • gang-related crime

Reporting suspicious properties through SCAN:

  • improves community safety
  • empowers citizens
  • targets properties, not individuals
  • holds property owners accountable for activities on their properties

How SCAN works

When community members report a suspicious property, SCAN investigators can:

  • begin an investigation
  • gather information
  • issue a warning letter
  • mediate the dispute
  • work with the landlord to facilitate an eviction or resolution
  • apply to the courts for a Community Safety Order that can:
    • call for owners to meet a number of conditions, or
    • allow the property to be closed for up to 90 days
  • take any measures necessary to safely and effectively close the property

This offers authorities a solid way forward to deal with either property owners, or landlords who have had their properties in effect taken over by illegal activities.