William McConnell, Mapping Perceptions of Crime in the Comox Valley from Small Cities CURA on Vimeo.

Perceived neighbourhood safety is an important determinant of quality of life. However, consistent with most neighbourhood research, surveys of residents’ perceptions of crime tend to ignore the discrepancy between the researcher’s definition of neighbourhood (typically an administrative area such as census tract) and residents’ perceived neighbourhoods (typically much smaller), which may compromise the reliability of the resultant data. Drawing on surveys conducted in the Comox Valley and in the Netherlands, we show that it is possible to address this discrepancy by using mapping software to establish the size and location of each resident’s neighbourhood, and by intentionally contrasting residents’ estimates of crime in their own neighbourhoods with estimates for the researcher-defined neighbourhoods. We also show that it is possible to map the hot spots that residents consider unsafe within their communities.