‘Ottawa’ Ottawa is Canada’s Safest City, Says a nation-wide poll. Perception or Reality?
Ottawa is considered the safest city in Canada, according to a Mainstreet/Postmedia poll to be released Tuesday.
It’s also one of the rare cases in which the perception almost matches reality as measured by Statistics Canada’s Crime Severity Index, said Quito Maggi, president of Mainstreet Research, which conducted the automated telephone poll of 4,213 Canadians about their perceptions of safety in 15 cities.
Almost three-quarters of the respondents said Ottawa was safe or very safe. Charlottetown, Moncton, St. John’s and Quebec City rounded out the top five “safest” cities, according to the survey respondents. Toronto, Montreal, Saskatoon and Edmonton were in the bottom five. Regina, Halifax, Victoria, Vancouver and Calgary were perceived to be in the middle of the pack.
Compared to the Crime Severity Index, which takes both the volume and the severity of crime into account, Ottawa is actually the third-safest city of the 15 on the list, after Québec City and Toronto, said Maggi.
A lot of the public perceptions about a city’s relative safety are based on its media exposure, especially on a national level, he said.
“When people read about Ottawa, it’s not about crime. It’s about the prime minister or politics.”
But some cities got an unfair bad rap in the survey. Winnipeg, for example, was ranked as the most dangerous city in Canada by the respondents — 35 per cent said it was safe or very safe, compared with 56 per cent who said it was unsafe, while the remainder were unsure. But according to the Crime Severity Index, Winnipeg is safer than a number of other cities, including Vancouver, Edmonton, Regina and Saskatoon.
Perceptions of Toronto were also distorted. Almost half of the respondents believed Toronto is unsafe — it was ranked as the second-most dangerous city in the list of 15 cities by the respondents’ reckoning. But according to Statistics Canada’s 2105 Crime Severity Index, Toronto is one of the safest cities in Canada.
Big-city crime tends to attract both the intensity of media coverage — because these cities have more media outlets — and also the length of coverage, which might include interviews with the victims and their families, and coverage of any resultant trial. In fact, respondents in the Atlantic provinces, where there isn’t the same media presence, were the most likely to say they were “unsure” when asked what they thought about the safety of the 15 cities on the list, said Maggi. A city’s reputation for danger can also hang on for decades longer than the reality warrants.
“People always believe that where they live is safe. By comparison, other places always seem a little bit worse,” he said.