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Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Perception vs Reality

StatsCan released a report today on neighbourhood incivility entitled Life in metropolitan areas,A profile of perceptions of incivility in the metropolitan landscape (also see the Canadian Press story). Incivility is, basically, the perception that a neighbourhood is dangerous based on factors other than actual acts of crime.

The Exchange

Below is just one of the tables from the report showing that, overall, about 16% of residents of a metropolitan area felt there was a “A very big / fairly big problem” with at least one physical incivility. I notice that Winnipeg is on the high end of the scale. Our largest bugaboos are vandalism and graffiti.

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Table 1
Over one in six residents of Canada's 12 largest CMAs
1 perceive physical incivility to be a problem in their neighbourhood

Population aged 15 and older reporting a problem with…
At least one type of physical incivility Garbage/litter lying around Vandalism and graffiti
percentage
Average (all 12 CMAs1)
16
9
11
Halifax
17
10
11
Québec city
8
4E
6E
Montreal
17
11
13
Ottawa/Gatineau
12
7
7
Toronto
14
9
9
Hamilton
16
12E
9E
Winnipeg
20
9
17
Regina
23
11E
17
Saskatoon
18
9E
15
Calgary
13
7
9
Edmonton
17
9
13
Vancouver
19
10
15
1 Census Metropolitan Area
Note: Do not use this table to compare one CMA to another. To know whether or not differences between CMAs are statistically significant, see Table A.1.
Source: Statistics Canada, General Social Survey, 2004

When it comes to social incivility, things that people do to give the perception of an unsafe neighbourhood, Winnipeggers seem to have less of an issue compared to other cities at 19% - about the middle of the pack. Specifically "People using or dealing drugs" is the largest fear factor.

512 Burnell

Something I really would like to have seen are Winnipeg inner city / suburban splits on the numbers. The report provides them but, unfortunately, only for the largest metropolitan areas of Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver. In those cities the rate of perceived incivility was two to four times higher in the inner city versus the suburbs. If you translate that factor to Winnipeg the numbers above could be as high as 40% to 80% of people.


The Exchange
In 1995 the Toronto Star did a poll about crime perception. Crime rates, including violent crime, were at the lowest point in a decade or more and murders were at a 25 year low, yet the poll showed that nearly 50% of people believed violent crime was on the increase. Another item I noticed while refreshing myself on the story was about the increasing number of women taking protective measures or self defence classes in the mid 90’s to ward off attackers yet in 1994 of 106 women killed in all of Canada 9 were killed by strangers and the other 97 by spouses.

More than a dozen years later, the Star is printing similar stories such as Toronto: Safer Than You Think after the 2008 Maclean’s feature on the most dangerous cities in Canada where Toronto ranked rather respectably.

Central Park, Winnipeg

In a 2001 the Department of Justice released a report called Public Perception of Crime and Justice in Canada: A Review of Opinion Polls that found some interesting, and contrary, conclusions.

One was that Canadians did not feel that the media influences their perception of the amount of crime and that violent crime WAS getting worse, the media was just following the increase. Another was that they felt that their immediate neighbourhood was getting safer but that violent crime in their community in general was up.

I could go on with reports but I just wanted to make the point that sometimes people's perceptions of crime can be higher than the actual crime rate and that changing perceptions can sometimes be a key factor is making people feel safer and even empowering a community to do more.

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