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Perception isn’t everything

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Manitoba’s largest city is receiving negative attention once again. Last week Mainstreet Research released their data on what Canadians perceive as the safest and most unsafe cities with Winnipeg placing at the bottom of the barrel for the second year running.
Earlier in the month the research company sampled 2,050 Canadian adults through live interviews to find out just what people really thought of the 15 largest urban centres across the country with a margin of error of +/– 2.16 percentage points 19 times out of 20.
In the past year Winnipeg has seen the crime rate increase by 13 percent while the crime severity index has also increased, this time by 16 percent. But, even at that, Winnipeg has only the fifth highest crime rate of the 15 major cities.
So why is it that only 37 percent of Canadians say that the city is safe while 55 percent say it is unsafe? And, why do the results get worse when narrowed down to provincial results, with 59 percent of Manitoban’s consider the capital to be unsafe?
There are many things the poll results prove but perhaps the most prominent is that perception and actuality are not always the same thing. Representatives from Mainstreet Research believe that scores are mainly driven by news coverage and the stories breaking through in national coverage have not helped Winnipeg improve its status.
I tend to agree. Although I have spent the past five years in the community news business I have a real issue with mainstream media, which is very different than what we do here at the Star and Times. More times than I can count I have picked up coverage of events with national importance just to be more confused about what was happening than before. It’s amazing how five different news sources can report three different angles on a story from the same single interview.
The thing I need to point out is that it doesn’t necessarily mean this coverage is inaccurate but, it is driven by what elements of the interview the reporter chose to bring forward. Or, more specifically, their perception of the events.
So, here are the real numbers. Regina has the worst crime rate with Saskatoon, Edmonton and Vancouver all falling higher than Winnipeg. Regina, Saskatoon and Edmonton also hold higher police-reported crime severity indexes. Despite the actuality, Edmonton ranked sixth in perceived safety while Regina was ninth and Saskatoon was 12th.
But, sometimes the results go the other way. Toronto, Ont. has the lowest crime rate per population of all 15 compared cities followed by Quebec City and Montreal. Despite this, safety perception has ranked Toronto just over Winnipeg in 14th place while Montreal was slotted as 13th and Quebec City as 11th.
Now that you know the facts does it change anything for you? Personally, even though i know the numbers, I still feel safer in either Saskatoon or Regina than in Winnipeg. For me, it’s not the media’s influence that keeps me feeling this way but, simply, just the size of the urban centre.
DGB