They’re either not sure of exactly what’s going on or prefer not to get involved and wish to remain anonymous. Therefore, the issues don’t get fixed, and homeowners sit back and cringe while activity worsens. The Alberta government has now made it easier for individuals to report criminal activity to local law enforcement agencies through Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods (SCAN). Not only is your report safe and confidential, but so is your identity. Your name and address are not disclosed to any agencies, law enforcement or the courts without your consent. Nor will you be requested to be involved in the investigation or be present for any court proceedings that may result from your complaint.
The Alberta Government developed the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act in 2008. This legislated Act outlines the process for making a complaint to the Director of Law Enforcement.
The Act was established to hold property owners accountable for their property activities that threaten the community or the neighbourhood's safety. As part of this Act's implementation and enforcement, the government created a Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods (SCAN) unit. SCAN is a division of the Alberta Sheriffs and is in place to help keep communities safe by dealing with problem properties used for illegal activity. Dependent on the situation, the SCAN unit will also work with RCMP and ALERT (Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team) when necessary.
SCAN operates under the Act to target properties used for illegal activity, not the people themselves. The unit is another resource available to all Alberta residents to access, and investigations are initiated based on citizen tips. The combined efforts between the SCAN unit and residents can help remove criminal activity off the street and make the neighbourhood safe once again. So how does SCAN work? When a resident reports a problem property to SCAN, the unit will begin an investigation. Once the investigation confirms the activity, investigators will contact the property owner to solve the problem informally. If those efforts are unsuccessful, SCAN can apply to the courts for a Community Safety Order that calls for owners to meet any number of conditions, or SCAN can request that the property is boarded up for a period of up to 90 days. Any criminal activity uncovered when dealing with the properties; the SCAN unit will turn it over to the police for investigation.
SCAN will target properties that are being used specifically for illegal activity such as drug trafficking, child exploitation, prostitution, or gang-related crime. The unit has listed some common signs that residents may notice. Seeing one of the signs does not necessarily mean there’s illegal activity occurring. However, if they happen frequently or there are multiple signs, that may indicate a problem exists. The number one indicator and typically most common in drug trafficking are frequent visitors during the day and night. Same for those who are repeat visitors and only go to the door for a very short time or remain in the vehicle. Another sign is frequent night activity, continued drawn curtains, neglected property and yard, and extensive home security. Another to watch for is the property owner’s behaviour to a point they are rarely seen, seem secretive, and are distant with others.
Since the inception of SCAN, the unit has investigated more than 5,800 properties throughout Alberta. With assistance from ALERT, it issued over 90 community safety orders that involved the homeowners’ eviction, the homes being boarded up and property fenced in for a set period. Residents wishing to report a problem property can file a report online at www.scan.alberta.ca or call direct at 1-866-960-SCAN (7226).
Vicki Winger, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Whitecourt Press