What can be done to make people feel safer?

Many people do not feel safe either at home or when they are out. What are the causes, and what can be done to make people feel safer?

The chances of being a victim of crime are actually quite low, especially violent or major offences. For most people, the only brushes with criminality will be petty crime, and this is not an everyday occurrence. It therefore should make no sense that one feels unsafe in society, but reality and perception of safety are not the same thing.

The media plays a major role in the public’s perception. In the realm of current affairs death and atrocities make the headlines (‘if it bleeds, it leads’), whilst crime procedurals and violence are the norm for primetime entertainment. This warps people’s understandings of reality by introducing fear and making people paranoid and mistrusting (believing everyone is a potential victim or criminal).

In some cases this fear becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: for example, one buys a gun because one fears home invasion, but gun deaths are far higher amongst gun-owning families (from accidents, unsafe maintenance, rush-of-blood fatal reactions to arguments, etc.) than non-gun owning families. Stereotyping particular ethnic groups as criminals breeds resentment and eventual conflict.

In order to increase one’s sense of safety it is important to replace sensationalist thinking with realistic awareness. Certainly there are dangers in the world and precautions are wise, but precautions should not equate to fear or phobias. Children and adults alike need to be taught not to buy into media portrayals. In order to enjoy life one has to put some trust in the world.