Survey finds St. John's residents more anxious about perceptions of crime

Mayor Danny Breen said he thinks the pedestrian mall will benefit everyone downtown in the long-term.
Mayor Danny Breen says residents are more concerned about security around their homes. (Adam Walsh/CBC)

The good news: residents of St. John's say they feel safe in their own homes. The concerning news? They're anxious about trends that threaten their sense of security, says Mayor Danny Breen.

The city issued a public engagement survey on safety in February as part of a plan to develop a new crime and violence prevention strategy.

The findings were to be tabled at Tuesday's committee of the whole meeting.

"I think generally people felt safe in their community, they felt safe in their homes, but they felt the incidents of crime has been increasing over the last couple of years," Breen told CBC Radio's The St. John's Morning Show on Tuesday.

"People have taken steps in order to address that, whether it's installing security systems — many people have cameras on the outside of their house, increased lighting around their house. People may be walking in two or more to a group in the evenings."

St. John's doesn't have its own municipal police force like other cities across the country. Breen said that means the city's powers are not the same as it would be in city's like Toronto, Halifax or even neighbouring Mount Pearl, which has six municipal enforcement officers and a superintendent.

He said respondents to the survey indicated there are underlying issues related to crime, specifically poverty and addictions.

Business owners on Duckworth Street argue the spotlight on Water Street drew attention away from their shops, bars and restaurants.
Private security has been added to downtown St. John's for the summer. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Breen said leading up to a "what we heard" document, the city engaged with more than 50 community groups and other organizations.

"That group is going to take this information, it becomes part of their analysis, as they prepare to bring forward recommendations to the city."

Breen said the city is at the "information gathering stage" and city's survey is just one piece in a long-term strategy for all community groups that have a stake in public policy.

There was no mention of which areas of the city may be more problematic than others, but for years the public has called for heightened safety in the downtown area, specifically George Street.

Private security staff have been more active in the downtown area as of late, leading up to the opening of the pedestrian mall. Breen said the security initiative was brought forward by the George Street Association.

"I think people generally were pleased with that, they were pleased with seeing that level of security in the downtown," said Breen, who wouldn't go into detail about the mandate for those security guards.

"I do know that they have interaction with the police when police intervention is required."

Download our free CBC News app to sign up for push alerts for CBC Newfoundland and Labrador. Click here to visit our landing page.