Summerside wants its police force to be able to seize property
Laws would allow police to seize property believed to be involved in crime
A week after Charlottetown city council voted to ask the province to pass civil forfeiture legislation, Summerside council has decided to join the lobbying effort.
Civil forfeiture legislation would allow police to seize property which investigators believe has been involved in a crime.
At its monthly meeting Monday night, Summerside council passed a motion to send a letter to Premier Dennis King to ask his government to enact such legislation.
"I see it as a way to help deal with an issue that is really affecting neighbourhoods," said Coun. Cory Snow, who put forward the resolution. It passed unanimously, with all councillors present speaking in favour. Coun. Carrie Adams was absent.
'A lot more power'
Even before Charlottetown passed its motion, Snow said civil forfeiture was already on his radar, and he'd been doing research on what laws other jurisdictions have in place. P.E.I. is one of just two provinces without civil forfeiture laws. Newfoundland and Labrador is the other.
Since being elected last year, Snow said he has heard ongoing concerns from residents about drug dealing, and other illegal activity in certain homes, "over and over again, despite actions by the local police forces.
"Oftentimes they end up back in the same house selling drugs. And it's just a safety concern. There's a lot of residents that feel unsafe in their own homes," Snow said.
Summerside Police Chief Dave Poirier said drug offences are on the rise, and he has no doubt that civil forfeiture laws would be helpful to police. He described such laws as an "extra tool for our tool belt" when it comes to tackling crime.
"It's going to give us a lot more power if it's enacted." Poirier said.
After Charlottetown passed its resolution, P.E.I. Attorney General Bloyce Thompson said his department would review and consider council's request.
While most provinces do have civil forfeiture laws in place, those laws have sometimes been controversial, and have even been taken to the Supreme Court of Canada. Some have criticized the laws as infringing on individual rights, since they allow property to be seized without a conviction.
Snow said he doesn't have that concern, and said he wants civil forfeiture laws "to be put in place and only used when and if there is sufficient grounds to do so."
While such a law may not solve the underlying causes of drug use and crime, Snow hopes it might be able to help resolve some of the issues he's been hearing about from residents.
"Ultimately, this is a major social issue that has lots of different areas that need to be addressed," said Snow.
"But that does not take away the fact that we have law-abiding citizens living in their own homes that are affected daily by illegal activity going on in a certain home."
With P.E.I.'s two cities now standing together on this issue, Snow hopes other municipalities will also join the lobbying efforts.