Bob Dinsmore said his home in Duncan has been broken into three times in recent weeks, with the last break-in taking place over a holiday weekend.
Dinsmore said other families in his neighbourhood have also been experiencing break-ins at their homes and other disruptions in their lives over the last month, and points his finger squarely at a rented home on Garden Street as the root of the problem.
The marine mechanic alleges the residence, which has a number of boarders living in it, is being used as a drug house and the situation is becoming intolerable for its neighbours.
“I had a laptop computer with a lot of my valuable work documents on it stolen during one of the break-ins at my house, and many of my neighbours are also experiencing problems with people connected to this house,” Dinsmore said.
“Used syringes are being left all over the place,” he said.
“And there have been some disturbances in the neighbourhood. I’m afraid someone will eventually be killed,” Dinsmore said.
Dinsmore said police from the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment were called to the house and had recovered some stolen goods, but he was told by the officers that their ability to deal with the issue of the house and its occupants is limited.
Sgt. Christine Wood, a spokeswoman from the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP, said she isn’t authorized to speak to this specific case for legal reasons.
But she said people shouldn’t hesitate to call the police when they believe criminal activity is taking place in their neighbourhood and they will use whatever resources at their disposal to deal with the issue.
However, Wood acknowledged there are limitations on what the police can do in some situations, including dealing with alleged drug houses.
“There is a Charter of Rights and Freedoms in this country so we can’t just walk into people’s homes without a warrant unless in situations where we feel someone is in danger or there are other safety issues,” she said.
“We act on evidence in a case accordingly and if there is enough evidence, then a warrant will be issued. But there’s a lot of steps that we have to go through before we get to that point.”
Municipalities don’t have any authority to enforce criminal laws, but they do have the ability to enact nuisance bylaws to deal with drug houses and other “nuisance” properties.
Nuisance bylaws allow a municipality to act against a landlord if multiple complaints have been received and the landlord has not acted on repeated orders to deal with the infractions.
The penalties for non-compliance get more serious if the landlord doesn’t act to fix the problems, and range from fines, notices on title and injunctions, to court orders against the landlord.
Municipal bylaws, in co-operation with local law enforcement, have been used to great effect over the years in the City of Nanaimo to shut down drug houses and clean up neighbourhoods.
The City of Duncan does not have a nuisance bylaw, but mayor Phil Kent said bylaw officers in the city do have some authority to deal with these types of issues.
He said, for example, the city does have provisions that allow bylaw officers to deal with health concerns and unsightly houses on properties in their jurisdiction, and have even imposed demolition orders in some cases.
“In other circumstances, we work directly with the police and put pressure on the landlords to deal with problem tenants on their properties,” Kent said.
“These options don’t usually solve the issue overnight, but nuisance bylaws don’t either.”
Kent said the city has had no direct complaints up to this point about the property on Garden Street, but has recently become aware that there are issues there.
“We’ll follow up on this with the RCMP and look at the specific issues there, like what repairs the property requires and whether the premises are unsightly, and see what can be done,” he said.
“But if it turns out that developing an actual nuisance bylaw is necessary to deal with this and other issues we face, then we’ll certainly consider it.”