A warning letter issued to a notorious downtown drug dealer under Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods legislation has not stopped addicts from trying to secure a fix.
Almost a year after the letter was issued to residents of 810 Wheeler Street, downtown residents are still concerned about drug-dealing activity at the residence.
When the initial warning was issued in June, the house’s owner was co-operative, even going so far as to post the green warning signs herself, Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods director Leslie Carberry said in a previous interview.
Now, the situation seems to have changed.
“There was some talk at our meeting that some of the area residents had noticed activity at that particular place … it’s been an ongoing concern,” said John Pattimore, a director with the Downtown Residents Association.
“It’s been busy there the last few days. Friday night it was non stop — taxis, cars, bicycles, and some people just walking around half-dazed,” said Gerry Parent, a property owner in Wheeler’s 800-block.
Traffic had really dropped off in the wake of last summer’s warning, but it was “surprising” to see how things had picked up, said Parent.
“We’ve just had it … you have all this stuff implemented, but nothing’s been done. And if you take it into your own hands, you’re reprimanded pretty badly,” said Jean Canard, a former Wheeler St. resident.
Canard moved after becoming fed up with needles and other drug paraphernalia found strewn around the front yard.
“It was no place to have kids around,” she said.
Impatient residents are now “waiting for the next step that the legislation allows,” said Pattimore.
This “next step” could be the invocation of a community safety order, a provision in the SCAN act allowing property closure and eviction of its residents.
No community safety order has ever been issued under SCAN, said Chris Ross, communications co-ordinator for the Justice department.
Imposition of a community safety order against the Wheeler St. house would have to be backed by an additional investigation and approved by the court, according to the law.
SCAN investigations can be initiated by anonymous complaints from one or more individuals in the community.
The renewed activity at 810 Wheeler was identified by Liberal MLA Gary McRobb as a key deficiency in the SCAN act.
“The first drug house shut down by the SCAN program is back in business,” McRobb said in the legislature last Thursday.
“The SCAN program was supposed to stop this type of illegal activity, not just suspend it on a temporary basis. How will the Justice minister be fixing this obvious flaw in SCAN?”
In a situation where community concern had been raised about rental tenants, SCAN would simply allow a landlord to invoke an eviction with only five days of notice.
However, the Wheeler St. house poses a unique problem for SCAN given that the house is resident-owned.
“If an application was made to court for a community safety order, and if the judge chose to grant a community safety order, then the property could be closed for up to 90 days,” said Carberry.
For those 90 days, the residents could be evicted and prevented from returning.
Carberry emphasized that SCAN does not focus on individuals, and looks solely towards preventing harmful community activities through various means.
“We target property, not people,” noted Ross.