May 29, 2009
FREDERICTON (CNB) - The provincial government introduced today legislation, The Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, that will establish a confidential, complaint-driven process holding commercial and residential property owners and their tenants accountable for specific illegal activities.
The legislation, referred to as SCAN, also targets properties where illegal activities habitually occur; and provides a process for removing fortifications on properties, such as bullet-proof material or metal bars on doors or windows, that are a threat to public safety.
Residents in communities where habitual crime occurs will be able to submit complaints through a confidential process. The SCAN investigation unit, comprised of peace officers designated under the legislation, will investigate and co-ordinate a course of action with local police or other enforcement agencies.
"We are pleased to introduce this legislation, which will help protect the health, safety and security of New Brunswickers in the neighbourhoods and communities where they live and work," said Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General John W. Foran said. "New Brunswickers should be able to feel safe. This is an important step in our ongoing efforts to reduce crime and build a safer New Brunswick."
The targeted activities under the legislation:
The legislation will also provide due process for people who believe they have been wrongly targeted and for those whose complaints have been determined to be unfounded.
"This legislation will empower residents to safely report properties on which the targeted illegal activities are occurring, and it will give authorities a less costly and time-consuming way to deal with crimes targeted by this legislation within their jurisdictions," Foran said.
Introduction of the legislation fulfils a commitment in the 2008-09 throne speech.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Background information follows. MEDIA CONTACT: Daniel Lessard, communications, Department of Public Safety, 506-453-4433.
The Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act (SCAN)
Powers and authorities:
Under the legislation, the minister of Public Safety will appoint a director and designate investigating SCAN unit members as peace officers as defined in the Criminal Code of Canada. The legislation will define the powers and authorities of the director and SCAN unit members. The minister will also have the authority to appoint inspectors under the Fortified Buildings section of the legislation.
A confidential civil complaint process will be put in place to receive complaints about targeted illegal activities occurring on properties and fortified buildings.
A complaint will trigger an initial investigation by the SCAN unit. The first point of contact will be the police force having jurisdiction. The police will provide a history of the activities that occurred on the property in question. Investigative efforts will then be co-ordinated, and a plan of action will be established.
In some instances, a lack of evidence may render a complaint as requiring no further action. There will be a process in place where the complainant may proceed with a complaint to the courts if he or she so chooses. If the judge determines that the complaint should move forward, that judge could order the director to close the property or perform any other duties as prescribed under the legislation.
In the case of a complaint of a fortified building, an inspection will occur; in the case of a targeted activity taking place, an investigation will occur.
When an investigation occurs, the evidence must prove that the activities are having an adverse effect on the community or neighbourhood in relation to their health, safety or security or their ability to enjoy their property peacefully. The gathering of evidence will be completed through video and surveillance and interviews of neighbourhoods by SCAN investigators.
The courses of action to stop the activity could be informal (warning letter, eviction, order to remove fortifications etc.) at the discretion of director; or formal in the form of a community safety order or an emergency closure order issued by a judge. The court may make an order requiring the director to close the property immediately where a serious risk or immediate threat exists. An example would be a property that has caused severe damage to the neighbourhood or community through extensive drug activity, resulting in overdose deaths and / or serious assaults reported occurring on or near the property.
Those not participating in the activities on a property will not be affected. For example, if an investigation determines that targeted activities are illegal, and these activities are taking place within one unit in an apartment building, only the individual or individuals participating in these activities will be the target of this legislation. No other units or tenants in the building will be affected.
Offences and penalties:
The act sets out certain offences and penalties, including:
The legislation provides for a confidential complaint-driven process. Complaints will be kept confidential; the legislation will forbid the release of the identity of those who on file at any time in the process without their written consent.