THERE’S crime, and then there’s the perception of crime.
The two are not the same and the tendency is if you simply think it’s a bit rough out there, then you’ll actually start to believe it and, more importantly, you’ll start telling folk that it actually is, as though it’s a fact.
But it’s not.
That was the gist of a lesson I was given recently.
Locally, it does seem that perception, false though I’m assured it is, is fairly prevalent when it comes to Leven High Street.
That is a fact.
One of the East Fife Mail’s team recently commented i that he prefers the ‘scenic route’ of North Street to the High Street because of what he ‘perceives’ as an intimidating atmosphere on our main drag.
It’s a view I share, especially after dark when the smokers congregate and the bellies full of beer cross the border from banter to verbal abuse.
Neither of us though have had any cause to summon the boys in blue, so we’re taking the long way round because of what we ‘perceive’, not because of what ‘is’.
Essentially, we’re, statistically anyway, just ‘feart’.
However... because of holidays, the Mail had cover at reception last week from someone who is not a ‘Levenite’ and not really familiar with the area.
“I don’t like going to the bank here,” she confessed. “It’s a bit scary on your High Steet.”
When asked why, she could only respond: “I don’t know, it just is.”
And then there was one trader who told me he’d lost quite a few regular customers from the Largo area because “they don’t like coming into the High Street”.
Misguided though it may be, there does seem to be that common perception.
So, where’s it coming from?
First in the dock would probably be the East Fife Mail itself, spreading what certain local cooncillors call “doom and gloom”.
Yet, while we have reported the closures and the authorities themselves looking to control the congregating hatchbacks at the Shorehead at nights, our pages over the past five years have not been screaming about trouble in the High Street.
I can’t recall one sensational story in the past five years at least.
Some of our contributors to the Letters Page have also been condemned for ‘running down Leven’ whenever they air a criticism of the High Street. So are they to blame for spreading a false perception?
Or are they airing a shared one?
What could be getting a bad press is ‘perception’ itself, as the dictionary defines it: “immediate or intuitive recognition or appreciation...”
“Intuitive recognition”, that’s what stops us from being daft and tells us what we like, and don’t like.
A place that you feel is too cramped, snobbish, hot, cold, dark, busy, whatever... it doesn’t matter how many people tell you it’s not, you’re still going to feel that way – until it’s changed, then your perception will change.
Maybe now is the time for everyone – police, community council, elected representatives – to accept that a lot of those that matter most, the people on the street, would like to see a change.
Of course, that’s just my perception.