Why do Reginans feel safe in “Canada’s Worst Neighbourhood”?
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A recent article in a popular news magazine cites Regina as home to Canada’s worst neighbourhood, portraying the city as dangerous and overrun by violent crime. Whether or not this portrayal is fair, Regina in fact typically ranks among the cities with the highest rates of homicide and violent offences in the country. In Regina, however, the article was met with surprise and disbelief, with residents asserting that their city is safer than larger centres such as Toronto and Vancouver. Thus, there appears to be a large disparity between actual and perceived rates of crime in Regina. To understand the source of this discrepancy, 54 Reginans estimated the relative frequency of crime in their own city in comparison to five other Canadian cities. They also estimated the proportion of instances of three crimes in five areas of Regina. The results showed that Reginans were generally aware of the city’s reputation for high crime, estimating its crime rates among the highest of the cities surveyed. Nevertheless, Regina’s perceived crime rates were much lower than actual rates, and Regina was ranked as the safest of the six cities. Rates were underestimated for cities participants were most familiar with (Edmonton and Winnipeg) and overestimated for cities with the largest populations (Toronto and Vancouver). Additionally, Reginans overestimated the proportion of crime taking place in North Central and Downtown, areas with relatively small populations. Taken together, the results suggest that crime perceptions are distorted by cognitive biases, specifically base-rate neglect and self-serving bias. Despite its high crime rate, Reginans generally feel their city is safe. We investigated the source of this discrepancy and found evidence to suggest it arises from several well-known cognitive biases.