A bylaw amendment granting police and bylaw officers additional power to penalize vehicles used illegally in city parks and trails has come before Prince Albert's city council.
The amendment to Bylaw No. 3 of 2016, the city’s Recreation Facilities and Parks Bylaw, would allow officers the right to “immobilize and seize any vehicle whether or not the owner of the vehicle is charged with or convicted of an offence” if the vehicle is found in a city park or on city trails. The amendment was designed to address reports of unauthorized vehicles entering Little Red River Park and doing significant damage, and to ensure all outdoor areas are safe and well-maintained. The city currently has the ability to fine those driving in restricted areas and size their vehicles for up to 30 days, and the new rules would allow for equal enforcement on streets and in parks.
Despite the good intentions, the wording of the bylaw drew condemnation from a number of councillors. Ward 8’s Ted Zurakowski said he didn't like the idea of the city seizing vehicles and not laying charges.
“How do I lose my vehicle without being charged? I need some help with that one,” he said. “If the intent is for the police to seize vehicles, for the city to seize someone's vehicle without laying a charge, I am very uncomfortable with that."
The community services department said the current phrasing is important to the bylaw, as officers often come across abandoned or stolen vehicles stuck in unauthorized areas with no ability to seize it and hurry the process to return it to its owner.
“It does eventually return itself, but of course that becomes more difficult,” Community Services Director Jody Boulet said. “This isn’t about going after people for no reason.”
Ward 2 Coun. Terra Lennox-Zepp worried the bylaw was out of sync with the city’s traffic bylaw and said the phrasing would not restrict the practice to only city parks.
Ward 6 Coun. Blake Edwards interpreted it differently, noting the amendment would allow police to seize any vehicle involved in criminal activity even if the owner was not a party to the crime.
"If someone borrows my car, goes out for a joy ride and gets caught up, then we can seize [the vehicle]," he said.
This trepidation and mix-match interpretations led council to send to the amendment back for more clarity. It is expected to return at the April 9 meeting for final approval.
On Twitter: @JournoMarr
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