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: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.
(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 "
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.