Factors that create or prevent safety
Several factors were identified by residents as influencing safety concerns around violence. Multiple residents cited specific areas or communities as being sources of violence. Many times such responses displayed existing stigma or bias against subsidised housing communities. Class divisions within our focus neighbourhoods may help explain some of these perspectives we encountered. Multiple homeowners we interviewed specifically mentioned apartment buildings within their communities as sources of danger. Another set of stereotypes voiced by residents was around the role of demographic changes, such as influxes of immigrants and low-income residents in impacting safety. Yet, as frequently as we heard these views, another group of respondents focused on the social factors that can lead to violence, with a number of residents suggesting that violence arose from a lack of recreational and employment opportunities for youth.
Residents shared diverse opinions about what could improve their neighbourhood’s safety. Several noted personal tactics such as avoiding specific locations and travelling at specific times of night. In Dorset Park, many residents focused on the hydro fields running through their community as a place to avoid in the evenings. Yet, several interviewees raised more general responses. While some offered critiques of the police (especially in regards to profiling and biased treatment of Black and racialized communities), increased policing was suggested frequently as a way to reduce violence. Similar was the desire for more security guards, specifically within apartment buildings.
Some respondents, typically homeowners, discussed neighbourhood watch groups and neighbours looking out for each other as being a key factor in increasing safety. Changes in the built environment, such as more light fixtures and security cameras, were also a common refrain. The importance of ‘eyes on the street’ from having foot-traffic and people out at night frequenting establishments was noted as being a helpful factor in increasing safety. Finally, multiple interviewees commented that youth programs and ‘giving youth something to do’ played a key role in producing safety. Overall, residents’ perceptions and recommendations provide important information for policy-makers seeking to improve feelings of safety across multiple dimensions.