23 May 2021

'Distressing signals' found in survey on feelings of safety in NZ

8:08 pm on 23 May 2021

One in three New Zealanders feel unsafe on public transport and 9 percent feel unsafe in their own home, according to a new report from Research New Zealand.

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Photo: Paul Garaizar/ Unsplash

People aged 18 to 34 were twice as likely to say they felt unsafe, Research New Zealand managing director Emanuel Kalafatelis said.

The young felt less safe in all the places covered in the survey, while those aged 55 and older felt safest.

Of particular concern, 15 percent of younger people sometimes or always felt unsafe at home, 20 percent felt unsafe at work or in their place of education, while 37 percent felt unsafe on public transport or in town.

In contrast, only 3 percent of those aged 55 or older felt unsafe at home, while 20 percent felt unsafe in town - the place that raised the highest level of concern in older people.

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A significant gender gap was revealed in the survey report, Home Sweet Home, released on Friday.

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Females and younger people felt significantly less safe than males and older people. Photo: Ioana Cristiana/ Unsplash

It showed females were 10 percent more likely to report feeling unsafe in town, with 32 percent feeling concerned about their safety.

On public transport, 34 percent of females felt unsafe, compared with 25 percent of males.

At public events, females were 6 percent more likely to feel unsafe, with 26 percent reporting concerns.

The results were based on a survey of 1009 people earlier this month.

The poll was sparked by results from another survey three months ago, in which 94 percent of New Zealanders said crime was a significant issue and 20 percent said it was "the most important issue at this time".

More Kiwis have reported being assaulted, abused, or feeling unsafe.

"Public transport is the number one place that people feel the most unsafe, but close on its heels is being in town," Kalafatelis said.

Emanuel Kalafatelis

Research New Zealand managing director Emanuel Kalafatelis. Photo: supplied

Overall, 29 percent of people said they felt unsafe on public transport, 27 percent felt unsafe in town, and 23 percent felt unsafe at public gatherings, such as sports and entertainment events.

"We can't ignore those figures," Kalafatelis said.

While 90 percent felt safe at home and 83 felt secure at their place of work or education, even the spaces most people take for granted as safe feel threatening for some.

"The thing that distressed us when we saw these results was the fact that ... 9 percent said they felt unsafe at home."

Kalafatelis said domestic violence was probably a factor in that high figure.

Younger people might be more likely to go out late at night and less likely to own their own transport, a factor that could make older people generally feel safer, he said.

In the wake of the attacks on two Christchurch mosques in 2019 that killed 51 people, a new question was asked in this survey, about how safe people felt in their place of worship, with 18 percent saying they felt unsafe.

Cantabrians were 8 percent more likely to report feeling unsafe at work or in their educational institution, with 21 percent feeling unsafe compared to a national total of 13 percent.

Despite a stabbing that injured four people in a Dunedin supermarket on 10 May, 88 percent of people felt safe in supermarkets all or most of the time.

People were asked what they saw as the main causes of violence.

"The one that stood out head and shoulders above everything else was the one about more people being in the community with alcohol and drug problems - 60 percent of our respondents said that was contributing a lot."

About 48 percent said inadequate legal penalties were fuelling violence, while 47 percent said housing problems, homelessness and increasing gang presences in public places were contributing a lot to violence.

About 27 percent said stress caused by the Covid-19 pandemic was a major factor causing violence.

Although well over half the people surveyed said they felt safe in all places, the results raised concern for those who experienced fear in their homes, workplaces, schools and wider community, Kalafatelis said.

"In general, most people feel safe in these places, but actually when you drill down, there are some distressing signals here."

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