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How safe do New Zealanders feel?

Press Release: IAG New Zealand

More than half of people (56.9 percent) are satisfied with public safety in New Zealand, insurer IAG’s National Safety Perception survey has found.

Results from the survey, which asked people a series of questions to gauge how safe they feel in New Zealand, reveal just over one in five of us (20.5 per cent) had a neutral view of public safety. However, a further one in five (20.9 per cent) felt unsatisfied with public safety.

The survey commissioned by IAG New Zealand, the country’s largest insurer, measured feelings about public safety, rather than actual public safety in New Zealand.

The survey also revealed:

Almost two thirds of respondents feel New Zealand is safer than other countries;

• More than one in three people feel New Zealand is less safe than it was one year ago;

• The top five offences of most concern to the general public in NZ are: (1) Drug dealing; (2) Assault; (3) Burglary; (4) Driving under the influence of alcohol or other substance; and (5) Robbery;

• Drugs were perceived the main driver of crime by the general public in New Zealand;

• Police and insurance companies were the top two most likely contacts that victims of crime would go to.

Martin Hunter, EGM Strategy People and Reputation at IAG New Zealand, said the insights were sought to help understand people’s feelings and to encourage debate, particularly around how communities can work together to actually be safer, more trusting and more resilient.

“Insurance has a role in helping individuals recover from losses – and we know safety is a general area of concern.

“If we can understand this better, we can improve products to better meet our customers’ expectations and also use it to influence safety initiatives on behalf of our customers.”

Overall perceptions of safety

Feelings of safety depended on whether you were a citizen, permanent resident or non-New Zealanders, while men and women reported slightly different levels of satisfaction, the survey revealed.

If you’re a New Zealand citizen, you are less likely to be satisfied with public safety than if you are a permanent resident or non-New Zealanders, according to the results of the poll. Just one in 20 respondents (4.8 per cent) who identified themselves as non-New Zealanders and one in six (16.6 per cent) permanent residents were unsatisfied with public safety.

This compares with New Zealand citizens, where more than one in five (22.1 per cent) were unsatisfied with public safety.

Dr Andrew Zhu, director at Trace Research, said it was interesting that New Zealand citizens scored their safety rating lower than visitors and permanent residents.

He said results were in line with Statistics New Zealand’s crime figures that were released in November this year.

“Permanent residents and visitors have a different perception perhaps because they are comparing the safety of New Zealand to where they have come from and it is likely that where they are from wasn’t as safe as here. Expectations are different.

“But citizens of New Zealand compare mostly with the past and, as November’s crime statistics show, crime is on the increase here.”

Slightly more women (22.2 per cent) feel less safe than men (19.4 per cent).

“It is important to remember that these results reveal respondents perceptions of safety, not actual levels of safety,” Mr. Hunter said.

“However, perception of safety is important to understand as it can influence people’s confidence and therefore the measures they may take and the help they may need from their communities to feel protected.”

Do we feel safer than last year?

Just under two in three (66.3 per cent) of respondents reported that New Zealand felt as safe or more safe than last year, the survey results revealed.

However, more than one in three people (33.7 per cent) in New Zealand feel the country is less safe than it was a year ago.

Women were more likely to say that New Zealand has become less safe, with 38.7 per cent responding they felt the country had taken a downturn. Seven per cent said New Zealand had become safer, while more than half (54.3 per cent) said safety felt about the same.

Among men, 28.4 per cent said New Zealand was less safe and 11 per cent argued it was safer. Some 60.6 per cent of males said safety felt about the same as last year.

Citizens, permanent residents and non-New Zealanders also felt differently to each other when looking at how safe New Zealand felt compared to last year.

Fewer citizens (8 per cent) felt the country had become safer compared to permanent residents (8.3 per cent) and non-New Zealanders (35.7 per cent).

This trend is reflected when looking at which demographic feels New Zealand has become less safe, with 34.6 per cent of Kiwi citizens saying the country was less safe, compared to 31.5 per cent of permanent residents and 19 per cent of non New Zealanders.

We feel New Zealand is safer than other countries

Almost two in three (63.4 per cent) people feel New Zealand is safer than other countries, results from the survey show, while fewer than one in 12 (8 percent) believe it is less safe.

However, when broken down, the statistics reveal differing results between Kiwi citizens, permanent residents, and non-New Zealanders.

Permanent residents are more likely to feel New Zealand is less safe than other countries.

Just under three in five (59.3 per cent) permanent residents felt the country was safer, while 63.6 per cent of Kiwi citizens and 78.6 per cent of non-New Zealanders currently here said the country was safer.

In addition, around one in 10 (10.7 per cent) permanent residents said it was less safe than other places, compared to 7.6 per cent of citizens and 9.5 per cent of non-New Zealanders.

Men and women reported almost identically when comparing the safety of New Zealand to other countries “of which they had experience”.

The crimes that concern us most

People in New Zealand consider drug dealing to be the most concerning public offence, the survey statistics reveal.

Respondents were asked to rate 17 types of offences tracked by the Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology and give each a score of between one (very little) and five (very large) as to what extent have those crimes affected their overall perception of public safety.

Drug dealing scored an average of 3.6 and came out on top. Assault, burglary, robbery and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs each scored 3.5.

Beyond the top five offences influencing perceptions of safety were sexual assault (3.3), murder (3.2), car theft (3.1), speeding (3.0), and weapon misuse (2.9).

Men and women agree on the most concerning offences, but they rank them slightly differently. Both agree that drug dealing is the most concerning crime (men 3.6, women 3.7), but women rank driving under the influence more highly (3.6, compared to men 3.4).

Both rank assault third (women 3.6, men 3.4) and robbery fifth (men 3.4, women 3.5), while the sexes differ on burglary. Men rank burglary the second most concerning offence (3.5), while women (3.6), although giving it a higher score, placed it fourth.

But is this the full picture?

The answers given by respondents were analysed using a specialist statistical model that looks at the relationships between the various answers given by each person.

Using this model, called a ‘Structural Equation Model’, analysts revealed that the crime that most impacts peoples’ perception of public safety is driving under the influence of drink or drugs, which was given an ‘impact weighting’ of 28 per cent.

Next up was assault, at 19 per cent, then drug dealing (16 per cent) and burglary (14 per cent).

Perceptions on the drivers of crime in New Zealand

Drugs were perceived by respondents to be the main driver of crime in New Zealand.

More than three quarters of people (75.2 per cent) considered drug a principal driver of crime, compared to 49.2 per cent who said alcohol.

A list of underlying socio-economic factors such as drugs, unemployment and family breakdown – based on work undertaken by New Zealand Police and the Ministry of Justice – were presented to respondents, who replied with what they considered their top three.

Some 45 per cent of people associate poverty for crime, and 44.8 per cent of respondents said unemployment was a key factor.

Poor parenting was identified by 37.2 per cent, while 21.2 per cent said family breakdown was a main driver of crime, and the same number highlighted poor education.

The differences in opinion between men (drugs 71.3 per cent; alcohol 47.6 per cent; unemployment 43 per cent; and poverty 42.5 per cent) and women (drugs 78.8 per cent; alcohol 50.7 per cent; poverty 47.4 per cent; and unemployment 46.6 per cent) were marginal.

However, there was a wider difference in opinion between the sexes in relation to views on poor parenting, which was blamed by more men (41.6 per cent) than women (33.2 per cent).

Who we go to when we’re a victim of crime

The survey asked respondents who they would contact if they were the victims of three types of crime: burglary, car theft and damage to property. A list of potential contacts was put in front of those who answered the survey, who were asked to select all that apply.

Almost all people (95 per cent) said they would contact the police, while just under three people in four (72 per cent) would contact their insurance company.

Family members (54.1 per cent) was third most common go-to, followed by neighbours (54 per cent) and friends (42.2 per cent).

Social media also made the list, with 17.8 per cent of respondents saying they would take to social media if they had been the victim of one of the three crimes listed. It came slightly behind telling a neighbourhood watch group, which 22.5 per cent of people said they would engage with.

The results also revealed that women were more likely to contact a wider variety of people following a crime. In each of the ‘go-tos' listed, women were more likely than men to contact each of them.

“The results assist in helping us to know who people turn to in the event of being the victim of a crime, and the sources through which they seek support and assistance,” Mr Hunter said.

“Insurers clearly have a responsibility to be there for customers at times when they may be extremely vulnerable. This information gives us something to work on, with us asking ourselves: can we engage better with our customers if they have been a victim of crime?”

“In that regard we are looking at partnerships to help us develop our own people so they are skilled in what is being called ‘psychological first aid’ – the ability support and connect customers so they get the immediate emotional help they may need as well as the financial support they expect from their insurer,” Mr Hunter said.

The survey

The online survey was sent to people who live in New Zealand through a consumer research panel and social media sites including Facebook, LinkedIn, Neighbourly and and Wechat.

Some 1348 responses were received from the poll, which was created by Dr Andrew Zhu at Trace Research and conducted between October 14 and 23. To ensure the representativeness of the results, demographic weightings have been applied to New Zealand citizens and permanent residents using the 2013 NZ Census’ population distribution. The margin of error is +/-3% at the 95% confidence level.

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