June 15, 2010
SAINT JOHN (CNB) - People will now have the chance to help make their neighbourhoods safer with the establishment of the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods (SCAN) unit.
Under the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, established in 2009, residents may confidentially file a complaint about residences where they believe illegal activities habitually take place.
The SCAN unit, comprised of a director and designated peace officers, will investigate and co-ordinate a course of action with local police or other enforcement agencies. SCAN offices are located in Miramichi, Moncton and Saint John, with the ability to serve all regions of the province.
"The SCAN team will provide an alternative to traditional law enforcement by investigating and if needed, shutting down buildings where crime is habitually occurring," said Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General John W. Foran. "Through this civil process, we now have another way to deter ongoing criminal behaviour and to stop crime from taking root in our communities and neighbourhoods."
The Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act provides for a civil process to hold owners responsible for properties where illegal activities habitually occur. Through this process, the SCAN unit may apply to the court to have owners remove fortifications that pose a threat to public safety; order them to stop illegal activity; and, if necessary, close the buildings.
"We are pleased with the establishment of the SCAN units," said Supply and Services Minister Ed Doherty. "By working closely with law enforcement agencies, they will play an important role in protecting the health, safety and security of those in the Saint John region and throughout New Brunswick."
The targeted activities under the legislation include:
The legislation also provides due process for people who believe they have been wrongly targeted; and, for those whose complaints have been determined to be unfounded.
Persons wishing to file a confidential complaint may call SCAN toll-free at 1-877-826-2122; or by way of e-mail, SCAN@gnb.ca (English), SDCEV@gnb.ca (French).
EDITOR'S NOTE: Background information follows. MEDIA CONTACT: Meghan Cumby, communications, Department of Public Safety, 506-444-5267.
Backgrounder: The Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act (SCAN)
A confidential civil complaint process is 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, which may consult the local police authority and request information relative to the property. 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 SCAN unit 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 the public's health, safety or security; or, on the ability of persons 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 the SCAN unit 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 making the complaints at any time in the process without their written consent. In addition, SCAN investigators will appear at any court hearings; there is no need for any complainant to take part in the court process.