Everybody enjoys physical safety and feels secure. People are free from victimisation, abuse, violence and avoidable injury.
Safety is fundamental to wellbeing: violence and avoidable injuries, at their most extreme, can threaten life itself. In other cases, they can reduce the quality of life for the victim and others.
Safety and security are both important. Safety is freedom from physical or emotional harm, while security is freedom from the threat or fear of harm or danger. Threats come in many forms, ranging from deliberate violence to accidental injury.
Violence and injury corrode quality of life in many ways. Physical injury causes pain and incapacity, reducing victims’ enjoyment of life and their ability to do things that are important to them.
Psychological effects are often as important as the physical ones. Victims of violence or injury often retain emotional scars long after their physical wounds have healed. They may suffer from depression or face other mental health issues.
Crime affects not only individuals, but also society as a whole. The victim’s family and friends are likely to suffer grief and anger. They may have to care for someone who is temporarily or permanently incapacitated and who may lose their livelihood. Crime and the fear of crime can also reduce social cohesion within communities.
Crime may restrict people’s freedom of movement. For example, they may stay away from certain areas or avoid going out because of a fear of crime.
The costs to the whole society range from the expense of hospital care and law enforcement to the loss of the victim’s input into their work and community. Children who grow up surrounded by violence may themselves become violent adults, perpetuating a negative cycle.
Four headline indicators are used in this chapter: criminal victimisation; fear of crime; assault mortality; and road casualties. The first three indicators provide a picture of the level and impact of violence in the community.
Measuring criminal victimisation from police records is difficult, as many crimes are not reported to the police. This is particularly true of domestic violence, sexual violence, and child abuse. The first indicator uses results from the New Zealand General Social Survey (NZGSS) to give a more comprehensive picture of the level of criminal victimisation in society.
The second indicator is fear of crime. Feeling unsafe harms people’s quality of life by producing anxiety. However, people may feel unsafe and have their quality of life reduced, even when the actual likelihood of their being victimised is relatively small.
Assault mortality provides a picture of intentional violence across society. Reducing interpersonal violence in families and communities is critical to social and personal wellbeing. This indicator measures deaths resulting from violence, the tip of the violence pyramid.
The final indicator is road casualties. People should be able to live in a society free from the risk of avoidable death or injury. One of the leading causes of avoidable injury and death is motor vehicle traffic crashes. In economic terms, the social cost of all motor vehicle traffic crashes (ie the total cost of road crashes and road injuries) has been estimated at $3.73 billion.
Overall, the Safety domain indicators show a generally positive picture of improvement.
The proportion of people who reported having crimes committed against them has decreased when looking at recent-change and medium-term-change. The rate of those killed or injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes has fallen steadily over time, though the death rate increased between 2013 and 2014. The rate of people who died as the result of an assault can be volatile owing to small numbers.
Many people, particularly females and those with lower material wellbeing, did not feel safe walking alone in their neighbourhoods at night in 2014.