Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Perceptions of safety

Back in 1994, the Lincoln Police Department launched the Quality Service Audit. The QSA is a survey of people who have recently interacted with the department, to find out how we did. We survey three categories of people, all by phone: people who have received citations (anything from speeding to felony crimes), victims and crime, and drivers in traffic crashes. There are a handful of core questions for everyone, and a few that are specific to the type of contact.

We developed the QSA in conjunction with the Gallup organization, whose longtime chairman, the late Donald O. Clifton, was a great friend of the Lincoln Police Department. He and his wife, Shirley, often attended police academy graduations. Interns and police trainees in our academy conduct the survey. Aside from the value of the data, the process of future police officers listening to citizens describe their experience with the department is very informative and valuable to recruits. It is also good practice for a critical police skill: talking to strangers.

Among the core questions we ask everyone is this:

"Now I would like to ask how safe and secure you feel in the neighborhood where you live. Do you feel:
(1) Always unsafe and insecure
(2) Usually unsafe and insecure
(3) Safe and secure sometimes
(4) Safe and secure most of time
(5) Always safe and secure "
Over the past 13 years, we have completed surveys with 51,241 people. That is a huge number of responses. I had the sudden idea late last week that the QSA responses concerning perceptions of safety and security would be interesting to look at over time. I thought that the recent experiences of crime victims and those cited or arrested would significantly influence their perceptions, but that drivers in traffic crashes would be a fairly representative cross-section of the community whose fender bender would be rather unrelated to their feeling of safety in the neighborhood where they live. So I decided to look at the data for drivers exclusively. We have 14,760 completed QSA surveys with drivers in traffic collisions.

Before I gathered the data together, I suspected that people were probably increasingly concerned about safety and security in their own neighborhood, in part due to the huge growth of news sources. My premise was that people are bombarded with 24 hour a day news that is often dominated by crime, and that as a result, we would see a steady increase in fear of crime.

I was wrong. The overall perception of safety and security (as gauged by the two positive responses: 5. always safe and secure, or 4. safe and secure most of the time) has remained remarkably stable. There has been a slight but steady increase in the percentage of respondents who always feel safe and secure in the neighborhood where they live. Click the graph to enlarge.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lincoln is a very safe town for it's size. We are much more fortunate than the big O to the east.

P.O. said...

"Now I would like to ask how safe and secure you feel in the neighborhood where you live. Do you feel:
(1) Always unsafe and insecure
(2) Usually unsafe and insecure
(3) Safe and secure sometimes
(4) Safe and secure most of time
(5) Always safe and secure "

Holy cow, that brings back some memories of time spent as an intern and trainee in the basement!

Anonymous said...

I'd say that no one is ever always safe and secure, regardless of their protection level, and that it would be unwise to ever let one's guard down completely. Security is like an asymptotic thing, in the sense that no matter how close to get to 100% safe, you can't ever quite reach it.

Kim said...

Your perception of people's attitudes based on news, esp. television news coverage, has some basis in fact. I read a study several years ago that looked at how people view their communities and where they got their news. This was conducted, I think, by some sociologists at University of Denver. One of the towns they looked at was Omaha, and they specifically looked at people who said they got most/all of their news from KETV-7, which has an "if it bleeds, it leads" news sensibility. Not surprisingly, those folks, when compared to others in Omaha who watched other stations, felt Omaha was more dangerous.

If you look at towns that don't have their own TV stations, I think people tend to think their towns are safer. My brother used to live in Salina, Kan., which has no local TV station and gets most of its network news from Wichita, Topeka and even KC. His brother in law was a cop (who actually got shot on the job but that's another story). So my brother heard a lot of "crime" news from this BIL, stuff that never got into the local paper, let alone the TV station in Wichita. But folks in Salina believed that Wichita, Topeka and KC were just festering cesspools of crime because that's what they saw on TV.

He now lives in Topeka, which does have a much higher crime rate than Lincoln, has its own TV stations and also has a newspaper that's more aggressive about crime beat coverage than the LJS. He perceives his town as being much less safe than Lincoln. He's probably right.

I'm not saying that crime news should NOT be covered. Far from it. I think our local media do a pretty good job of letting us know what's happened but in less sensational manner. But people also need to look around them and judge for themselves about the "safe-ness" of their neighborhood. That being said, the little spurt of crimes last year that occurred on the bike trails had me a little spooked as my friend and I are out on the path near our homes at 5:30 a.m. every day. We feel safe, but we also have encountered a little funkiness, so we keep our eyes open and pay attention.

Anonymous said...

I have toned down the nature of the myspace page. I think now we are in a "everone knows mode" so I have made alot of changes. I will update the blog too.

http://www.myspace.com/mattj68521

Anonymous said...

Chief,
Have you ever thought about instituting a program manned by civilian volunteers to help fight crime in Lincoln?

With the proliferation of relatively cheap video phones that also have GPS devices included just think how many EYES you could have on the street gathering intelligence for your officers. These video phones could document illegal behavior and provide evidence for prosecution of crimes if needed. A website where these videos could be uploaded to should be fairly simple. I realize it would take tremendous amounts of time to sort through these videos for pertinent information. However there are a lot of Old Pharts like me who have retired and would be willing to volunteer a few hours a week to something like this. This is a resource that could be used that probably would be very cost effective.
Just an idea,


Gun Nut

Anonymous said...

I ALWAYS feel safe when Officer Pickering is working... Way to go AL!!!!

Anonymous said...

Here is an interesting vehicle for patrolling that new park area, when the Antelope Valley project gets further along. You might not pick it for pursuit duty, but for stealthily rolling through parks at night, it might be useful.

Tom Casady said...

Matt's Dad:

I was so taken with your hijacking that I mentioned it to the regulars at our morning news briefing--without using any names. One of them wanted to know if I'd give them your name and contact information. I declined, without your permission.

What say you? You can email me offblog if you wish.

tcasady@lincoln.ne.gov

Warning: this would have the potential of hitting the news wire like that mom who made her child parade around in a sandwich board recently. It's an intriguing story if it lands on a slow news day.

Anonymous said...

While I've only been "interviewed" about a traffic accident a few times, the last one was somewhat amusing. The young male officer referred to one of your female officers as he. I corrected him and I'm sure he felt embarrased. Perhaps a list to help the new guys?
The calls are great and could be used very effectively for training purposes for on the street behavior.

Anonymous said...

How to hijack Myspace accounts.
First you must have a master home email account through an ISP.

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the forgot password to the email account that I created based on the user email address
that the myspace accepted to log in. I then sign in with the generated password and then
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The site is now ours to use at our desire.

Anonymous said...

Use this post not the first

How to Hijack Myspace
Current mood: adventurous


How to hijack Myspace accounts.
First you must have a master home email account through an ISP.

So I mine the computer for email and
access information for the target Myspace account. I create another account based on the target
email address. This account I create is a host account on our master email roadrunner
account. I then generate a forgot password message from Myspace. Myspace emails
the forgot password to the email account that I created based on the Myspace user email address
that the Myspace accepted to log in. I then sign in with the generated password and then
change it in the "my account" settings section.
The site is now ours to use at our desire.

Anonymous said...

I chose this blog about the way the public feels they are safe because I find it interesting that the graph shows more of a constant stability of the publics feeling always safe to usually safe; outside of the fact that there are many variables that do affect the outcome of this graph like traffic collisions not having anything to do with feeling safe in your neighborhood I think this is a pretty accurate study. One of the main things that most people do not take into consideration is the fact that the reporting media manipulate the actual crime in the city, the media’s job is to get and keep viewers and ratings; this means that obviously they are going to over report heinous crimes and under report low crime areas or statistics. The general public is not aware of this and they fall into the media’s grasp of manipulating what is happening in the city in order to gain viewers ratings. The basic truth is that high crime sells and the people are interested in murders and catchy headlines that startle them, in reality the media should stop trying to act like they are selling books or horror stories and start contributing to the city and the police department protecting them.