How safe is New Zealand? By Angela Caldin

‘On behalf of New Zealand, I would like to apologise to Grace’s family; your daughter should have been safe here and she wasn’t and I’m sorry for that.’

These are the words of Jacinda Ardern, prime minister of New Zealand, speaking about the recent murder of Grace Millane. She continued, ‘We pride ourselves on being a place where people are welcome, where they are safe and this hasn’t happened. I feel a sense that New Zealanders are carrying this quite personally.’

Homicide rates

I was intrigued by her claim that Grace should have been safe and it made me want to look at some statistics about personal safety in New Zealand. A 2014 OECD survey* showed that the homicide rate in NZ (the number of murders per 100,000 inhabitants) is 1.3, lower than the OECD average of 3.6. The homicide rate is seen as a more reliable measure of a country’s safety level because, unlike other crimes (such as offences involving domestic violence), murders are usually always reported to the police. This ranks NZ as 26th out of 38 countries surveyed, which means there are 25 countries with lower homicide rates, countries like Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Poland, Spain, Slovenia and the United Kingdom.

Safety at night

The same OECD survey considered personal security as a core element for the well-being of individuals and asked people if they felt safe out walking alone at night. In New Zealand, 65% of people surveyed said that they felt safe walking alone at night, slightly less than the OECD average of 69%. This puts NZ at 25th out of the 38 countries surveyed, meaning there are 24 countries where people feel safer walking alone at night. The UK ranks at 11th, Switzerland at 4th and Norway at 1st.

On both these measures, NZ turns out to be well down the league tables as regards safety. As a country it cannot claim to be a particularly safe place, much as it would like to. Of course Grace Millane ‘should’ have been safe, but every country is home to people with mental health issues and twisted thought processes that could lead them to murder in either a premeditated or a reckless way.

Keeping safe

The way forward is surely to talk less about how safe NZ is and talk more about how to keep safe when travelling and meeting new people. Don’t travel alone, travel with someone you trust who you can leave your details with, always tell someone where you are going and who you are going with, don’t accept drinks from strangers, never leave your drink unattended, don’t walk alone late at night, avoid unlit areas and don’t carry lots of cash, valuables or expensive jewellery with you.


4 Comments on “How safe is New Zealand? By Angela Caldin

  1. It worries me that women should feel that it is their own responsibility rather than the men who rape and kill. An extrapolation of the argument that women must be responsible for keeping out of harms way would be that they should only be allowed out in the company of their brothers, fathers or sisters. Please let men be responsible for their behavour rather than expecting women to modify what should be normal behavior for women.

    • I agree with you up to a point. But in general terms, I think women do have to be alert and take care until such time as the behaviour of some predatory men changes for the better and I can’t see that happening any time soon.

  2. Angela I agree with many of your writings but I absolutely don’t align with your recommendations here and I believe you are reinforcing the message that the deaths of women in these circumstances are in some way their fault. How about we reword this for men: Don’t kill people who are travelling alone, don’t spike strangers drinks, don’t attack people walking alone late at night even if they are in unlit areas and don’t attack people who are carrying lots of cash, valuables or expensive jewellery even if you like the look of it.

    • As I said to Ann in reply to her comment, I agree with you up to a point. And I am not suggesting that if women are assaulted or murdered that it is their fault. What I am saying is that while some men are as they are, it is a good idea for women to be vigilant. There are men with mental health problems and rigid ideologies who are unlikely to suddenly start behaving acceptably. Although education and changing attitudes in society will certainly bring about a better situation, I believe there will always be some men who, usually for reasons of psychological instability, are liable to assault women.

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