People feel less safe in public spots

Palmerston North people feel less safe in public places at night, even though violent crime in the city appears to have levelled off.

A survey for Palmerston North City Council shows increasing dissatisfaction about night-time public safety – the percentage of people disappointed, or not very satisfied, has climbed from 33 per cent in 2006, to 41 per cent this year.

They commented it was risky to be at The Square alone, there were "drunks spilling out of bars", and "gangs of youths carrying knives".

However, people were much happier about public safety than earlier in the decade, when at least half the survey respondents were dissatisfied.

The Communitrak telephone poll, of 400 residents, was carried out at the end of January and early February.

There was no clear trend on how people felt about crime in their neighbourhoods.

Palmerston North police area commander Inspector Pat Handcock said violence in public places dropped after changes were made to The Square, surveillance cameras were brought in and a 24-hour liquor ban was imposed on the central business district.

Crime in public places had increased incrementally since then, he said, but had recently plateaued.

Reported violent crime was up 7 per cent in 2009, compared with 2008, though much of that was family violence.

Reported violent crime in public places was down 1 per cent.

Crime overall fell by 4.1 per cent.

"A significant number of agencies have a pretty clear focus on making sure our city streets are as safe as they can be," Mr Handcock said.

"In particular, there's a very strong focus on CBD safety."

An informal poll indicated that 88.5 per cent of people felt the city was less safe than it was a year ago, while the remainder felt it was better.

Mayor Jono Naylor said it was a shame people felt less safe even if they weren't actually less safe – it was still important to address the perception.

One option could be to bolster the presence of Safe City Hosts, he said. Maori Wardens had also been more active in The Square recently.

Mr Handcock estimated alcohol was a factor in about 80 per cent of night-time violence.

Manawatu Standard