The rate of crime is falling in Aberdeenshire, yet the perception of crime is changing more slowly, a survey of residents has revealed.
The findings are highlighted in the 25th survey on community safety conducted with the Aberdeenshire Citizens’ Panel in May last year, which have now been published.
As well as gathering general views on community safety, the survey explored a range of related themes, including the impact of alcohol, safety on the road and community safety priorities.
The responses have helped the Aberdeenshire Community Safety Executive identify its key priorities for the year ahead.
Grampian Police figures show the total number of crimes and offences recorded in Aberdeenshire in 2010/11 was at the lowest level in at least five years.
Serious violent crime in Aberdeenshire was at its lowest level for seven years, with the area recording the lowest number of serious assaults per 10,000 of population in Scotland according to Scottish Government figures. Vandalism, too, was at its lowest level for seven years.
The official figures are reflected in part by the responses to the Aberdeenshire Citizens’ Panel survey. It highlights a fall in the number of panel members who have either witnessed or experienced criminal or anti-social behaviour in the last two years.
Although figures for recorded crime are falling, perception of crime is taking longer to adjust. Nevertheless, in the survey a total of 75% of respondents said fear of crime had no impact or only a minor impact on how they led their life, up from 70% when the question was last asked in 2009. And only 3% felt that fear of crime had a major impact on how they led their lives, down from 8% in 2009.
The survey shows that the majority of people (91%) feel safe walking in their local community after dark, and although fewer people feel as confident in town centres (56%), this figure has risen since the previous survey.
And almost all panel residents felt that alcohol has an influence to some degree on anti-social behaviour, violent crime and disorder, and accidents in the home.
Successful initiatives in this area include the Safer Summer Streets scheme, which was recognised at this year’s National Community Safety Awards following a successful pilot last year.
Speeding vehicles, drink-driving and using a mobile phone while driving continue to be the main concerns among residents in terms of road safety. Ongoing work in this area includes young driver initiative Safe Drive Stay Alive, and motorcyclists scheme Operation Zenith.
Looking ahead, the top three priorities highlighted by respondents to the survey related to serious and violent crime, anti-social driving and alcohol misuse. Road safety, controlled drugs, underage drinking, public violence and domestic violence were also identified as areas of focus.
Community Planning Partnership chair Cllr Anne Robertson said: “It’s important that we work closely with our communities so that residents have the opportunity to raise any potential areas of concern, and so that matters can be reported easily.
“The Citizens’ Panel surveys are one of the tools we use to empower people locally to do this.”
Full results for the 25th Citizens Panel survey can be found at www.ouraberdeenshire.org.uk/panel