It has been a month that I moved to Nice for my sabbatical leave. I had barely set foot on the tarmac at the airport that the honeymoon phase set in.
How could it not?
There is the obvious, especially for someone used to Montreal winters: balmy temperatures that keep thick coats stowed away, the sea spread at the foot of the city, Mediterranean cuisine, culture galore and architectural good looks to boot.
There is also the less obvious: no stress about finding time to do research. Research is all I breathe in my working hours. Many of these I spend at the Institut d’Administration des Entreprises (IAE), where I was welcomed warmly as a visiting professor. I have a break from fussing about teaching and there are no meeting-induced black holes that swallow up my time.
Ok, I get it, you might think at this point. Enough already with the gloating.
To be fair to Nice, not all is nice.
Nice is a big city and, as such, plagued by big city problems including, notably, crime.
During my first week in Nice, as I was walking back home from the IAE, I witnessing theft in broad daylight. On the other side of the shop-lined street, a man was chasing another man, shouting “Au vol, au vol!” Before long, the accused dropped his treasure, the owner picked the package off the sidewalk and turned around. He walked back to his shop, which appeared to sell thingamajigs like toys, kitchen supplies and sodas.
A week later, I read a note in Nice Matin, the local paper, about an elderly lady who was attacked as she left her apartment in the afternoon. The thieves ripped her necklace off her throat. Luckily, a passer-by called for help, a police car was in the area and the two robbers were arrested. She got her necklace back.
Locals whom I spoke with have warned me about crime. Do not go to the Promenade des Anglais, they say, for gents on scooters may be off with your bag before you know it.
Yet how bad is it? Is there more crime here than in, say, Montreal? Or do I notice crime more because I am new to the city and therefore more attuned to my surroundings?
In 2011, the Alpes-Maritimes department reported 49.7 cases of theft per 1,000 inhabitants, with Nice housing slightly more than 50% of the Alpes-Maritimes population (Source: INHESJ). Alpes-Maritimes had the second highest crime rate in France in 2011, the crown going to the Bouches-du-Rhône department (home to Marseille) with 53.1 cases of theft (Source: Ministère de l’Intérieur).
In comparison, the greater Montreal area experienced 32.08 cases of theft per 1,000 inhabitants in 2011 (Source: HRSD Canada). The province of Québec (which harbours Montreal) reported 28.06 cases, the second lowest rate in Canada where Ontario was the safest province in 2011 with 27.39 cases of theft.
Nice then beats Montreal in terms of theft. Why though?