Social cohesion and safety perceptions in a multicultural context: When the natives are the minority group  

Giovannini D., Pintus A., Vezzali L., Ferrari B.
First author's affiliation: University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Reggio Emilia, Italy

Although several studies suggest that urban environment is experienced as less safe than non-urban one, different areas of the same city may consistently differ with respect to feelings of safety perceived by residents. The aim of this study was to analyze the representations and perceptions of people living in the area close to the railway station (Districts 6 and 7) of Reggio Emilia, where immigrants constitute the majority group, in terms of perceived safety and specific problems linked to the immigration process and intergroup relations. First, we hypothesized that marginalization perceptions occur more for Italians than for immigrant residents. Second, we expected that safety perceptions would be enhanced by social ties, and this relation would be mediated by sense of community. Furthermore, we explored the role of sense of community in fostering a more harmonious climate within the community. Data were collected in two distinct phases: in the first, we conducted deep interview to stakeholders so as to understand the real problems faced from people living in the area; in the second, semi-structured interviews, constructed on the basis of the contents collected in the first step, were conducted with a sample of residents. Results generally confirmed the hypotheses, supporting in particular the role of social cohesion in fostering safety perceptions and satisfaction within the community.