Safer Communities shuffles drug dealers

Desperate for drugs, the addict banged on the door and asked if Stan the Man was around. He had the wrong house.

Desperate for drugs, the addict banged on the door and asked if Stan the Man was around.

He had the wrong house.

The crack shack was down the road, surrounded by abandoned cars and old furniture.

Stan the Man set up shop on Squatter’s Road after Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods legislation had him evicted from a trailer behind the Kopper King in early January.

Stan the Man was the first dealer evicted through SCAN legislation.

His case calls into question the legislation’s effectiveness.

Does the new act reduce the number of drug houses?

Or does it just shuffle dealers to new locations every five or six months?

It’s too early to tell if SCAN is effective, said Justice communications spokesperson Chris Beacom, on Wednesday.

“The point is to make it difficult for drug dealers to operate.

“And by taking away their home it makes it difficult.”

But the only difficulty Stan the Man’s clients faced was finding his new place.

At all hours of the day and night, a steady flow of traffic streamed up and down the road.

Horns blared, people screamed at each other and the nearest neighbour was woken up several times a night with addicts banging on his door asking directions.

 The black limo-taxi made daily trips to the place.

The RCMP was spotted once.

The police cruiser dropped off a passenger by the rundown shack.

After six months of activity, Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods parked a van across the road and started surveillance.

On June 20th, telltale green signs were plastered on the abandon cars and the shack.

Safer Communities ordered the residents to vacate the property, which is owned by the Kwanlin Dun First Nation.

The shack’s door was boarded up.

 “The place has been empty for at least a week,” said Beacom.

“He had to be out by June 27th. And the SCAN guys went up there and he’s gone.”

But this week, traffic still beat a path to and from the shack.

And a stream of young girls and older men who are not residents of the community are still regularly spotted walking up the road towards the residence.

At this point, SCAN’s work is done, said Beacom.

It won’t continue to monitor the property.

“They will have to wait for another complaint,” he said.

Safer Communities works closely with the RCMP, said Beacom.

It shares information with the police.

But that information is of little use.

“We can’t go on hearsay evidence,” said Whitehorse RCMP Sgt. Roger Lockwood, on Wednesday.

The RCMP is governed by Canada’s criminal code. Safer Communities follows civil legislation.

 “We have to have actual witnesses go before the judge and provide testimony,” said Lockwood.

“SCAN — they do not require that.”

While Safer Communities legislation allows for “assumptions and all that, the RCMP have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that those were drugs,” he said.

“So the standard is quite a bit higher.”

Safer Communities investigators only have to prove that illegal activity is probably happening at a residence, BC Civil Liberties Association executive director Murray Mollard said in an earlier interview.

It’s flawed legislation, and breathtaking in its power, he added.

Lockwood would not comment on the fairness of the legislation.

“We are dealing with two very different things,” he said.

“We deal with the people — they deal with the property.

“So in terms of Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that’s dealing with people’s rights.

“We have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person is committing a criminal offence.

“SCAN is a civil legislation — they don’t have to do that.”

SCAN legislation has a low standard of proof, said a judge from BC, who asked to remain anonymous.

“But the loss of a house is just as serious, if not more so than practices under the criminal code,” he said.

Shuffling criminals from one area to another is often the result of regulatory offences under civil law, added the judge.

A new regulation, for example, will order prostitutes out of one area, he said.

“So they end up moving to another area that ends up being less safe.”

It happens everywhere.

Many of the individuals running drug houses have already been charged by police multiple times, said Lockwood.

“Charging prolific offenders doesn’t stop them from committing offences later on,” he said.

And Safer Communities faces the same problem with evictions.

The dealers just find a new place to live.

Since its inception in late November, the Safer Communities’ office, which has a $356,500 annual budget, has evicted suspected drug dealers from 12 separate residences.

Seven other residences complied with the legislation before an eviction was necessary.

Safer Communities currently has 34 active files and has received 95 complaints regarding 75 separate residences.

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