Court orders Cape Breton motel to stop accepting cash, install camera showing room doors

Neighbours have complained about the Highland Motel in North Sydney saying there is frequent activity related to illegal drug use.  (Erin Pottie/CBC - image credit)
Neighbours have complained about the Highland Motel in North Sydney saying there is frequent activity related to illegal drug use. (Erin Pottie/CBC - image credit)

A Cape Breton motel that neighbours say is a hotspot for criminal activity has been ordered to create stricter policies on its room rentals.

Last year, an investigation was launched into the Highland Motel in North Sydney under Nova Scotia's Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods (SCAN) Act.

Through its legislation, Nova Scotians can submit complaints about suspected criminal activity on a property, which can lead to its temporary closure.

According to documents filed in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, the 22-room motel has been under the microscope since last fall. A provincial investigator began collecting evidence that showed people coming and going from the property at all hours, and leaving after only short periods of time.

A judge considered the affidavit of a provincial investigator, along with a local councillor who received numerous complaints about the property from people living nearby. A third piece of evidence came from a police officer who responded to several calls at the motel involving illegal drugs, overdoses and shots being fired.

No cash transactions, 24-hour video surveillance

Maqbool Bhatti purchased the motel about four years ago. Earlier this week, he consented to a community safety order, under SCAN, that imposes several conditions on his motel.

"I think that order is perfect for the people's safety," Bhatti said. "They decided to keep it open, this place, and just with the extra safety for our guests and for the neighbourhood community."

New safety measures include the temporary hiring of a security officer, no longer accepting cash as payment and asking for photo ID from all guests.

The motel must also maintain 24-hour video surveillance that shows the door to each room, as well as the lobby and front desk. The recordings must be kept for 30 days.

The provisions of the order begin next month and are set to expire in September.

A spokesperson from the Department of Justice, which oversees public safety in the province, said compliance is expected in this case as the conditions are court imposed.

The motel owner could be subject to having the property closed for up to 90 days if the order is not followed, said the spokesperson.

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