Features / Halifax / City Matters Halifax: 2013

Respondents overwhelmingly say downtown Halifax is mostly or very safe: Poll

If HRM residents are worried about their personal safety, it’s not because of anything happening in the downtown core.

Nearly 90 per cent of respondents to the 2013 City Matters survey, conducted for Metro Halifax and the Greater Halifax Partnership by MQO Research, described the downtown core as “mostly” or “very” safe.

That’s an increase of six per cent over last year.

In combination with a reduction in assaults in the downtown core, Halifax Regional Police Deputy Chief Bill Moore said he’s cautiously optimistic.

“A reduction in our numbers doesn't mean a whole lot if people don't feel like they can go downtown and feel safe,” he said. “So numbers going down on the crime side and going up on the satisfaction side are positive indicators to me.”

Under a dedicated strategy focused on reducing assaults and alcohol-related incidents in the downtown core, Moore said officers focus on maintaining visibility without being threatening.

“Part of it is setting a tone,” he said. “There's kind of a line: You enjoy yourself and if you go over the line, there's an opportunity for someone to spend the night with us in our lovely accommodations.”

The head of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia said bar and restaurant owners are also seeing results from the Patron Accountability Safety and Service (PASS) program, launched in 2012. Patrons can be suspended from all participating establishments for underage drinking or violent behaviour at one.

“Consumers are paying attention because no one wants to get barred from 25 or 26 places,” said RANS executive director Gordon Stewart. “That's going to cut into their social life.”

Stewart said the social patterns are changing too, noting the number of bars with cabaret licenses province-wide has plummeted from about 14 eight years ago to roughly six.

“The early evening bars are getting upgraded and they're doing much better,” he said. “So there's less and less people spending later time out at night.”

Survey respondents were also asked how safe they’d feel walking alone at night in the downtown Halifax. Nearly 60 per cent said very or mostly, up slightly from 2012.

Moore said there’s no contradiction between those responses and the strong feedback that the downtown is generally safe.

“I'd be interested to see how many people would feel safe walking alone by themselves anywhere in HRM at night,” he said.

The poll surveyed 600 residents over the age of 18, with a margin of error of plus or minus four per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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