JUSTICE OFFICIALS HOT ON THE CASE
Evictions Possible Under Safer Communities And Neighbourhoods Act
Regina residents charged earlier this week in the latest drug bust in the city could soon be facing eviction notices under the province's Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act.
"There is no doubt our investigators are on those cases and working with the police," said Murray Sawatsky, executive director of the law enforcement branch with the provincial Justice Department.
The purpose of the Act is to improve community safety by targeting and, if necessary, shutting down residential and commercial buildings and land that are habitually used for illegal activities such as: Child pornography or sexual abuse; prostitution; producing, selling or using illegal drugs; solvent abuse; or the unlawful sale and consumption of alcohol.
"This is civil legislation and therefore is not legislation that policemen would enforce. Justice department enforcement officers do the investigations and do the eviction orders," Sawatsky said.
"One of the first things our investigators have to do when they get a complaint is determine whether it falls within the mandate of the unit . if the complaint involves allegations of illegal activities."
The investigators then contact the police to see if that particular house is of interest in a criminal investigation, he said. If police are investigating the residents at that address for illegal activities, Sawatsky said, the safer communities enforcement officers put their investigation on hold to allow police to complete their criminal investigation.
"If it is an activity like drug trafficking or a grow-operation quite often our investigators will actually go in with the police or right after the police and then they will determine the appropriate action," he said.
That action could be a stern warning to cease and desist the alleged illegal activity or it could result in an eviction notice.
In 2005 a total of 78 eviction orders was handed out provincewide with the majority being issued in the larger centres of Saskatoon and Regina. However, Sawatsky said, eviction notices have been handed out in smaller cities, and northern and rural communities.
Earlier this month enforcement officers issued their first eviction notice in Fort Qu'Appelle. Occupants of a Fort Qu'Appelle residence, who were charged with illegal drug activities, were told to vacate their property.
Since its inception in November of 2004 the Safer Communities legislation has been receiving rave reviews, Sawatsky said.
"I think what communities are seeing is that they can take responsibility for some of the things that are happening in their neighbourhoods. They can call and something in fact will be done. What this does is get the activity out of the neighbourhood," Sawatsky said.