Dutch Policy on Public Perception of Safety
Measuring public perceptions of safety
The Veiligheidsmonitor Rijk 2007 [Government Security Monitor 2007, only in Dutch] measures both objective and perceived safety. Objective safety is determined by asking questions regarding the extent to which citizens have fallen victim to various types of crime.
In order to map out the perceptions of unsafety, the Veiligheidsmonitor Rijk (VMR) presents respondents with a number of questions regarding their perceived fear of crime. Respondents were first asked whether they have ever felt unsafe. Those who answered yes to this question were then asked whether this was often, sometimes or (very) rarely the case.
The VMR also poses the question as to whether respondents avoid certain situations because they feel unsafe. This includes avoiding certain areas in their place of residence, avoiding opening the door at night to unexpected visitors, leaving valuable belongings at home, taking detours when walking or driving, prohibiting children from going somewhere and avoiding the use of public transport. Where people adapt their behaviour because they feel unsafe, as is the case in the above situations, this is known as avoidance behaviour.
Finally, the VMR also asks those respondents who have at some point felt unsafe whether they have ever felt unsafe in certain situations, such as when using public transport, visiting night spots, or in locations where groups of young people hang around.
The VMR 2007 shows that more than one fifth of residents have felt unsafe ‘at some point and around three percent ‘often feel unsafe. This is less than in 2006 and 2005. For almost all types of avoidance behaviour, the numbers of residents displaying this behaviour in 2007 were lower than in previous years. Residents feel particularly unsafe in areas where young people hang around and at night spots.*
*Veiligheidsmonitor Rijk 2007. Landelijke rapportage [Government Security Monitor 2007. National Report]. Statistics Netherlands, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Voorburg/Heerlen, 2007.
Policy on reducing public perceptions of safety
In March 2008, the Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations and the Minister of Justice published the Action programme on social and physical disorder (Actieplan overlast en verloedering, only in Dutch). This programme contains two specific measures on reducing Fear of Crime. The first one is the development of an digital toolkit for reducing fear of crime (e.g. the Fear of Crime toolkit of the British Home Office). The second one is an experiment with reassuring policing in a some regions of the Netherlands police force. Reassuring policing is an scientifically based way of policing involving citizens a lot, which is in UK very effective in reducing fear of crime.
Dutch Studies on public perceptions of safety
A very thorough study on measuring Public perceptions of safety is the dissertation study Interpreting Fear, Crime, Risk and Unsafety (2006) by Gabry Vanderveen. Another good study on the concept of Public perception of safety is Citizens in fear? (2006) by the Social and Cultural Planning Office in the Netherlands.