Is St. John’s getting more violent? It depends on who you ask.

Historically, there are one to two incidents of homicide in Greater St. John’s every year.
Homicides really spike the Violent Crime Severity Index, even if there are decreases in
other types of violent crime. So, one murder goes a long way in terms of crime stats,
and generally freaking people out.

Using comparative stats, we can see crime trends rise and fall from year to year,
and the fluctuations in our position relative to other provinces – higher than some,
way lower than others. Depending on your perspective, violent crime in our city is
either a rising tide or status quo.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary points to their crime analysis and intelligence-led
policing initiatives, as well as the public confidence in the organization, for the increase
in reports of violent crimes of late.

Comparative stats aside, stories of violent crime can make a civilian feel isolated and
even fearful. Is St. John’s feeling more violent? Most people would think so.

So, what are people doing to push against the trend?

Several neighbourhoods have followed the example of the Georgestown Neighbourhood Association.
“As a neighbourhood association, one of our goals is to build community,” says board member
Elizabeth-Anne Malischewski. “If people know their neighbours, they are more likely to be able
to obtain help from them in the case of violence, in particular, domestic violence
(youth violence, spousal and child, elder abuse, etc.). They are not alone but rather a part
of a community which can provide support.”

“Moreover, the more people who are out in the street, walking, visiting green spaces and outdoor
sports venues, the safer it will be for all people to be out and about and the less violence we
will see in our community,” she says.

Non-profit community organizer Happy City St. John’s works to inform, encourage, and facilitate
public dialogue around civic issues in the city of St. John’s, though they don’t have any initiatives
that are specifically focused on violence. Josh Smee, Chair of Happy City, says it is definitely on
the radar. “When people talk about the liveability of their neighbourhoods at Happy City dialogues,
their feelings of safety where they live and work and play are a pretty big part of that.
There’s also some people thinking about these things from an urban design perspective –
how do we build streets and neighbourhoods in such a way as to make them safer places?
It’s an interesting question for sure.”

Happy City welcomes anyone interested in getting local dialogue going about violence.
“We can help people reach a bigger audience, help with things like survey design, or connect them
with partner organizations who are also looking into these things,” says Smee.

If macro ideas like community organization and city planning don’t calm your nerves when walking alone
at night, there are other options, like learning self-defence. Wen-Do is just one of the organizations
that offer self-defence training in the city.

“Women come to Wen-Do to learn more ways to feel safe at home, at school, at work and in our communities,”
says Renee Sharpe, who teaches Wen-Do’s 2-day, 15 hour course. “We work from an anti-oppression,
feminist framework, offering a safe space were women and trans women identified, can feel supported when
talking about violence against women… It’s an incredible experience when you realize you are strong enough
and smart enough to defend yourself, right now, just the way you are.”

Article by Lauren Power