Many North Americans still view cities as dangerous places. Indeed, there are some neighbourhoods in some cities (primarily American cities) that are extremely dangerous. There are also a few Canadian neighbourhoods that can be described as uncomfortable.
The image of cities in the minds of many non-urbanites is tainted by Hollywood. The impression that people have of New York is particularly misleading. Many action movies in the 80s and 90s took place in the city, and were centered around the drug trade. Indeed, New York did experience a flare of up crime when crack cocaine became popular in the 80s. The presence of many historically dangerous neighbourhoods such as Harlem gave the city a particularly bad reputation. But anyone who spends time in New York City can attest that it is now among the safest places on earth. Indeed, the city reached a miraculous milestone on November 26, 2012: there was not a single homicide, slashing, stabbing, or shooting reported in the entire city.
Consider what an absolute miracle that is. More than 8 million people crammed together in a city the size of Calgary, and not one murder, shooting, or stabbing. No one can actually remember the last time this happened in NYC, but it is before 1945. The city is on track for its lowest homicide total since 1960. While New York is but one city, the immense progress made is further proof that we are living at a uniquely safe time in human history.