British Columbians dealing with neighbourhood drug houses and other problem properties can soon file anonymous complaints to a new agency rather than police.
Justice Minister Shirley Bond said the yet-to-be named agency will be created as part of legislation she introduced Thursday.
"Other jurisdictions have this legislation, and it's time British Columbia joined that group of provinces," Bond said, adding premises that provide illegal services such as prostitution will also be targeted.
"This will be a civil process so it doesn't deal with criminal issues, and it would need to be demonstrated that the behaviour is repetitive."
Officials at the agency will contact the property owner and residents about complaints, and charges could result if the issues are not resolved, Bond said.
Drug houses, commonly called crack shacks, are no more of a problem in the Central Okanagan than any other community, said Insp. Paul Driscoll of the Kelowna RCMP.
"It's not like people are phoning every day about it. We do get complaints," he said. "We've taken down one in Rutland and one in the city centre in the last four months or so."
Crack shacks are usually small, rented houses on old properties. People tend to flop there and sell drugs, so buyers come and go at all hours. They're often an eyesore and can devalue the neighbourhood.
"All it takes is one house like that in a subdivision of nicer homes with families and it becomes a huge problem for people," Driscoll said.
Landlords can spend months trying to evict problem tenants because of the rights they have. Police may get a search warrant and bust people for possession or trafficking, but it's up to the homeowner to get rid of them.
The new agency will collect complaints and investigate party houses, grow-ops, bawdy houses, crack shacks, gang hangouts and places where people possess weapons illegally, the government said.
The office can send warning letters and ask a court for a community safety order. With that order, the government could evict bad tenants, lock the house, build a fence and shutter the property for up to 90 days. The owner gets the bill.
The proposed act stipulates that complaints are confidential, and police or the courts can't get any information about the people making them.