Public perceptions

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Download: Public perceptions of crime factsheet [PDF, 212 KB]

How do we measure public perceptions?

The NZCASS measures people’s perceptions on a range of topics:

  • Neighbourhood crime problems and social disorder
  • Neighbourhood safety after dark
  • Level of personal worry about victimisation
  • Quality of life affected by fear of crime
  • Ratings of groups within the criminal justice system
  • Neighbourhood support groups
  • Home security measures and security consciousness

Because we asked about people’s perceptions at the time of interview, they relate to 2014. This differs from crime rates, where we asked people about offences committed from 1 January 2013, the year before the interview.

Colmar Brunton runs a separate survey to investigate public perceptions about crime and the criminal justice system, on the Ministry’s behalf. This survey was run for the first time in 2013, and again in 2014.

While there is some overlap in the content of the NZCASS and the Public Perceptions of Crime and the Criminal Justice System Survey (PPS), we can’t directly compare results from the surveys because the surveys use different designs and methodologies. For example, the NZCASS is a nationwide face-to-face random probability survey, while the PPS is an online survey which uses Colmar Brunton’s research panel.

For more information on the PPS, and the 2014 results, go to Public perceptions of crime and the criminal justice system survey – 2014 results.

Public perceptions of crime and the criminal justice system survey – 2014 results [PDF, 1.3 MB]

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Do people think their neighbourhood has a crime problem?

In 2013, we found a range of decreases across the different measures and types of crime. To find out if New Zealanders could perceive this fall, we asked two questions:

  1. Do you think there is a crime problem in this neighbourhood?
  2. Do you think that in the last 12 months there has been more or less crime in your neighbourhood than before, or has it stayed the same?

In 2014, 69% of adults didn’t think there was a crime problem in their neighbourhood, more than in 2009 (65%).

The most commonly perceived neighbourhood crime problem in 2014 was burglary / break-ins.

Of adults who thought there was a crime problem in their neighbourhood and who’d lived in their neighbourhood for a year or longer:

  • 16% said there was less crime (either a little or a lot)
  • around half (51%) said the level of crime had stayed about the same
  • 32% said there was more crime (either a little or a lot).

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Do people feel safe in their neighbourhood after dark?

In 2014, 72% of all adults felt safe alone in their neighbourhood after dark and 28% felt unsafe.

Women (42%) were more likely to feel unsafe compared to the NZ average (28%), and men were less likely to feel unsafe (14%).

Seniors (those aged 65 years and over) were more likely to feel unsafe (35%) compared to the NZ average, and young people (those aged 15–19 years old) were less likely to feel unsafe (22%).

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How worried are people about being victimised?

Looking at the percentage of adults fairly or very worried about being victimised by selected offences, all were down in 2014 compared with 2009.

Offence% of adults fairly
or very worried 2014
Comparisons to 2009
Traffic accident by drunk driver 49% Down from 58%
Credit card fraud 49% Down from 55%
Burglary 47% Down from 58%
Vehicle damage or interference 42% Down from 53%
Vehicle theft 37% Down from 48%
Robbery 29% Down from 39%
Assault by strangers 28% Down from 37%
Sexual assault 23% Down from 27%
Assault by people known 10% Down from 14%

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What were people’s perceptions of the criminal justice system in 2014?

The following table shows the ratings of each criminal justice group in 2014:

 Excellent/goodFairPoor/very poor
Police 73% 19% 8%
Juries 57% 35% 7%
Judges 50% 35% 15%
Criminal lawyers 47% 39% 14%
Probation officers 48% 38% 14%
Prison service 56% 33% 12%
  • The percentage of adults who rated Police as excellent or good increased between 2009 (68%) and 2014 (73%).
  • There was no statistically significant change in the ratings for juries from 2009 or 2006.
  • There was no statistically significant change in the percentage of adults who rated judges as doing an excellent or good job between 2014 and 2009, but there was an increase between 2006 (47%) and 2014 (50%).
  • The percentage of adults who rated criminal lawyers as excellent or good increased between 2009 (42%) and 2014 (47%).
  • The percentage of adults who rated probation officers as excellent or good increased between 2009 (34%) and 2014 (48%).
  • The percentage of adults who rated prison services as excellent or good increased between 2009 (34%) and 2014 (56%).

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Are people improving their home security?

In 2013, 59% of households took action to improve their home security. People most commonly said they were making improvements because their home was going to be left empty (35%).

People who didn’t make improvements most commonly said this was because they thought their home was reasonably secure (65%).

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Who is improving their home security?

66% of adults who had been a victim of an offence in 2013 made improvements to their home security, compared to 54% of adults who hadn’t been a victim.

Of adults who experienced burglary in 2013, 74% made improvements to their home security. This compares to 57% of adults who had not experienced a burglary in 2013.

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How many people participate in neighbourhood support?

In 2013, 92% of households didn’t take part in a neighbourhood support group.

The top reasons for not participating were:

  • haven’t heard of neighbourhood support or not aware of a group in their area (48%)
  • neighbours look out for one another (35%)
  • don’t know how to join or had not been asked to join (22%).

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