New survey suggests it may depend on your gender
A recent survey suggests that more women then men feel safe in their current neighbourhood, but more women than men also feel less safe using the bus, city parks or accessing police services.
“Men and women do look differently around safety and the areas they feel safe in,” said Clare Freeman, executive director of Interval House. “It wasn’t just the presence or absence of police in your neighbourhood that created a sense of safety.”
The west Mountain women’s shelter received a $200,000 grant from Status of Women Canada in 2010 to look at ways of building a safer community and ending violence against women.
One of the projects was to set up a women’s community safety advisory committee comprised of eight women from groups and agencies across Hamilton.
The committee developed a safe cities audit or survey that was conducted mostly on-line between Sept. 30 and Dec. 6 last year.
Of those who responded, 102 identified themselves as male, 281 female and three transgender.
One person identified themselves “other” and nearly 90 percent were age 21 or older.
Forty-one percent of respondents said they lived in the lower city, while 24 percent were from the Mountain and eight percent from Ancaster, Dundas, Waterdown and lower Stoney Creek.
The remainder was from rural or unknown areas.
More than half identified themselves as of white, Anglo-Saxon background.
The remainder included Canadian francophone Caucasian, Canadian Afro-Caribbean, Canadian Asian, aboriginal, south Asian, South American, Jewish, American, African and European
Eighty-one percent said they were heterosexual and most had incomes over $20,000.
Here are some of the survey results:
How safe do you feel in your current neighbourhood?
84 percent of females said they felt somewhat safe or safe and 12 percent of females said they felt somewhat unsafe or unsafe; 79 percent of males said they felt somewhat safe or safe and nearly 14 percent of males said they felt somewhat unsafe or unsafe
How safe do you feel using the bus?
72 percent of females said they felt somewhat safe or safe and 13 percent of females said they felt somewhat unsafe or unsafe; 78 percent of males said they felt somewhat safe or safe and 11 percent said they felt somewhat unsafe or unsafe.
How safe do you feel using parks?
70 percent of females said they felt somewhat safe or safe and 17 percent of females reported they felt somewhat unsafe or unsafe; 76 percent of males said they felt somewhat safe or safe and 12 percent of males said they felt somewhat unsafe or unsafe.
How safe do you feel accessing police services?
70 percent of females said they felt somewhat safe or safe and 14 percent felt somewhat unsafe or unsafe; 77 percent of males felt somewhat safe or safe and 11 percent of males felt somewhat unsafe or unsafe.
When asked about domestic violence, 21 percent of the females and 10.5 percent of the males responded they felt unsafe at home due to an abusive partner and more than 95 percent of both groups agreed that living in a home without violence and eliminating racism, homophobia and economic and disability barriers are important parts of building safe communities.
The survey did not include reasons why respondents felt safe or unsafe.
“This survey really opens up the conversation around how do we view community safety,” said Freeman, who added the survey was also done to let local politicians and police know that gender does matter when it comes to making decisions about community safety.
While Freeman acknowledged the size of the survey is less than one percent of the population, it does provide some insight into what people are thinking when it comes to community safety.
“What it does give us is a snap shot (of public opinion) because we’ve never done a community safety audit that included the whole city,” she said.
Hamilton police chief Glenn De Caire said via e-mail that the police service is committed to building a safer community for women and children and the survey indicates there is still work to be done.
“This survey is a perfect example of citizen’s reaching out, working together and everyone having their voice heard and not just reflections of the police,” De Caire said. “Hamilton Police have many community partners and appreciate and encourage their input and perspective.”
Freeman said the numbers will be put into a report by the end of March that will be given to city council, the police service and to members of the male leadership committee that was organized last year with the goal of ending domestic violence in the community as part of the building safe communities’ initiative.
The survey will also be posted online via: intervalhousehamilton.org