{ thinking out loud about the things i care about }

Edmonton Jasper Avenue Safety Survey Results

The Jasper Avenue Safety Survey Results have been published online and I’m not terribly impressed by Toybox’s breakdown of the data.

They asked questions like “do you live in downtown Edmonton” but didn’t break down the rest of the results by people who live downtown and those who don’t. People who live downtown spend more time here and likely have a deeper understanding of the real versus superficial safety concerns. By mixing the data, how are we to know whether or not there are real safety problems or perception issues? If the people who live downtown report very different safety concerns (or levels of safety concerns) than those who are here only to work or only to experience the nightlife, the disconnect needs to be addressed. The two issues — safety versus perception of safety — have to be dealt with in very different ways.

Also, they asked for age but not gender. More women than men experience street harassment (especially walking past popular bars like Oil City after midnight) and are a much better indicator of harassment levels than 25-35 year old white men, who by comparison are targeted for harassment less frequently. Depending on the gender mix of survey respondants, the harassment numbers may potentially be under-represented.

People experience downtown areas in different ways depending on their age, gender, sexual orientation, race, whether or not they live downtown, and which area of downtown they live in. My sister, for example, who feels most secure in white picket fence enclosed suburbia does not feel at all safe walking downtown at night, whereas I, who live, work and play 24/7 downtown, would comparatively report I feel safe most of the time. Who is right and who is wrong? Is the issue my sister’s unwarranted anxiety the issue, or am I, as a resident, just too used to to living here to notice as many safety concerns? Probably the truth lies somewhere in the middle, as most truths do, but this survey doesn’t provide the statistical depth required to help answer those legitimate questions.

I think a comprehensive survey of safety issues downtown is a great idea, but this survey isn’t very thorough and seems to skim the surface of a lot of issues that are worth a deep dive. I would be wary of drawing any conclusions from it until the data has been broken down further. I’m not certain Toybox Media was the best company to go through for this survey. Do they have the specialized statistical expertise needed to write and analyse a survey that has potential government and tax-dollar implications? Or would this have been better outsourced to a company that specializes in polling rather than one that specializes in marketing?

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