Safer communities initiative up and running

After 18 months of discussion and preparation, the Yukon government is ready to crack down on crack houses, bootleggers and prostitution dens.

After 18 months of discussion and preparation, the Yukon government is ready to crack down on crack houses, bootleggers and prostitution dens.

Under its new Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, or SCAN, the government set up a phone line (456-SCAN or 1-866-530-7226) to field residents’ calls about suspicious behaviour in their communities.

Although officially launched Wednesday, the line has already received almost 20 calls since the initiative was announced in June.

The $340,000 legislation gives the territory power to shut down properties housing illegal activities, like bootlegging, drug dealing and prostitution.

It also allows the territory to investigate fortified buildings — like ‘biker bunkers’ with bars covering windows and doors — and order the fortifications removed.

The government has hired two full-time investigators, one auxiliary on-call investigator and a registrar to take complaints.

SCAN is triggered when a neighbour makes a confidential complaint to Justice department investigators through the new line.

First, investigators do background checks on the property and share information with RCMP.

Then, armed with equipment like surveillance cameras and drop cars, investigators stake out the property to determine if the illegal activities are habitual and if they’re adversely affecting the community.

Because it is a civil legislation, investigators only need to prove the illegal activity is probably happening. This is different than what’s needed in a criminal offence, which requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Next, the department approaches the landowner to try and resolve the problem informally. If that fails, the government can apply for a community safety order to shut down the property, terminate the lease or turf out the offenders.

Currently, the RCMP can search properties and charge individuals, but not shut down properties.

“The government is adopting a co-ordinated approach, including First Nations and non-government organizations, in all stages from development of the legislation to implementation, to evaluation,” Justice Minister Marian Horne told the Yukon legislature on Monday.

The government is also matching resources, such as treatment programs, counseling and alternative housing, to help people affected by the legislation.

“One house, one street, one neighbourhood, one community at a time, we can put a stop to activities that negatively affect our health and safety,” said Horne.

Yukon’s newly implemented legislation mirrors similar acts already in place in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

The order in council was signed on Monday.

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