Winnipeggers don't feel any safer than they did four years ago and they're split on whether Mayor Sam Katz's tough-on-crime pledges will help.
A new poll by Leger Marketing for the Winnipeg Free Press and the CBC found voters split down the middle on the right approach to crime-fighting.
Half support the root-causes strategy mayoral hopeful Judy Wasylycia-Leis touts, which includes more cash for recreation centre programs and a real plan to combat poverty.
And a combined total of 47 per cent of those surveyed favour stricter laws, more enforcement and more police officers -- the tough-on-crime approach adopted by Katz.
"This defines your election," said Dave Scholz, executive vice-president of Leger Marketing.
"We have a tale of two cities... It's almost like it's a referendum on these issues."
As many candidates have noted throughout the race, combating crime is the city's top issue for voters. Forty per cent of those polled said crime ought to be the new mayor's first priority. About a third said it should be fixing roads and bridges.
But Winnipeggers don't feel any safer than they did four years ago when Katz began his first full term and started adding dozens more police officers to the WPS's complement.
About 44 per cent of those surveyed said they feel less safe than they did four years ago, and nearly half said they feel the same.
Women tend to say they are even more worried about crime and half of them, along with more than half of seniors, feel less safe than they did four years ago.
Only seven per cent said they feel safer, even though the city's overall crime rate has declined and most violent crimes, which are on the rise, tend to be confined to the inner city.
The poll suggests Katz's marquee issue, the one he used to kick off his campaign, might not resonate with voters. Katz has pledged to hire 58 officers to walk the beat and staff one new police cruiser and an anti-gang unit, but only about a quarter of voters favoured tougher laws and more enforcement, and only 17 per cent thought hiring more officers would help.
"People don't necessarily want to hire more officers but they're saying, 'Tell us what you're going to do with the ones you have,' " said Scholz.
The notion of a new police helicopter barely resonated.
Wasylycia-Leis has said more police officers won't solve the root causes of crime, and has promised a program to train at-risk youth to do city cleanup work and $2.76 million a year to extend community centre hours and boost programing.
Most people favoured a softer approach. One-quarter of those surveyed wanted more community and recreation resources for young people and another quarter wanted a tri-level poverty-reduction plan.
What should the new mayor's first priority be?
Take efforts to reduce crime -- 40%
Fix roads, back lanes and bridges -- 32%
Spend more money on recreation and community services -- 14%
Complete rapid transit corridor to the University of Manitoba -- 10%
Build a new football stadium at the University of Manitoba -- 2%
None of the above/don't know/refused to answer -- 4%
Compared to four years ago, do you feel... ?
Safer in Winnipeg -- 7%
Less safe in Winnipeg -- 44%
As safe as you always did -- 47%
None of the above/don't know/refused to answer -- 2%
Thinking about combating crime in Winnipeg, which of the following should be the main focus for civic politicians?
Stricter laws and law enforcement -- 26%
Provide more community/recreation resources for young people -- 25%
Work with other levels of government on a poverty-reduction strategy -- 24%
Hire more police officers -- 17%
Purchase new equipment for policing, such as a helicopter -- 4%
No further actions are needed -- 1%
Don't know/refused -- 2%
NOTE: Numbers might not add up to 100 due to rounding
Which of the following measures would be the best way to improve the downtown core?
Increase number of police foot patrols -- 36%
Provide more tax and other financial incentives for housing to increase downtown's population -- 24%
Provide incentives for downtown businesses -- 21%
Reduce the number of liquor vendors -- 10%
Downtown does not need improvement -- 0%
Leger Marketing conducted a telephone survey of 800 randomly selected Winnipeg adults between Oct. 6 and 17. The firm can say with 95 per cent certainty its results, statistically weighted to conform to demographics, are accurate within a margin of error of 3.5 per cent.