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Survey: The State of Safety in the United States
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Survey: The State of Safety in the United States

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USA – March 19, 2019

58% of all Americans worry about safety and security on a daily basis—but what does that really mean? SafeWise commissioned a study to find out what people are worrying about and the level of concern that Americans have for various safety issues. The results were published on SafeWise’s website on March 4. SafeWise surveyed 100 people in each of the 50 states. Responses were weighted based on population.

The participants were surveyed about six key safety areas: Violent crime, Property crime, Digital security, Health and wellness, Environmental safety, and Workplace safety. The research reveals how attitudes, perceptions, and concerns differ among the general population based on demographics and geography.

According to the survey, safety concerns vary by state, but regional differences are minimal. Concern about various safety and security issues is comparable among the West, Midwest, South, and Northeast regions of the US. Residents in the following states tend to be more anxious and their stated level of concern is higher than others: Alabama, Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, and Tennessee.

Violent crime was ranked as the top concern when people were asked to rank the six key safety issues in order from most concerning to least concerning. That said, concern doesn’t line up with experience. Fewer Americans (22% on average) have had a personal experience with a violent crime than with other safety concerns. Digital security is the most experienced safety issue, with an average of 24% of Americans having a digital security breach or scare in the past year.

Open-ended questions brought up a variety of safety and security issues, but concerns about safety in the home (related to physical harm, property theft, and digital theft) came up more often than other worries. Break-ins, including robbery and burglary, were the most common concern. Worry about having valuables stolen from a car or home, along with the fear that personal information is at risk (e.g., identity theft, breach of financial information), came up most frequently. Physical violence was another common concern in the home or community (e.g., physical assault, sexual assault, getting shot). Outside the home, issues related to national and public security were mentioned, including fears of terrorism, general violence in public settings, and drug or gang-related crimes.

Violent Crime Findings: Americans have a lot of different concerns when it comes to violent crime, often centered around dangers that may be life-threatening. Murder is mentioned most frequently, perceived to be the worst way to lose a life. Other violent crimes include robberies, assaults, and physical attacks. Rape is a common concern predominantly among women. Although robberies are commonly mentioned, many are concerned about other violent crimes that may occur during a robbery (i.e., assault or loss of life). Due to recent world events and the prevalence of the topic in the media, some express concern about mass shootings and terrorist attacks in crowds and urban centers. Regardless of the issue, Americans are worried about their own safety as well as that of their friends and family. Demographically, females and households with children are significantly more likely to rank violent crime as most concerning.

Across states, Alabama residents are most likely to rank violent crime as most concerning. A few Alabama cities fall within the top 15 dangerous cities in the United States. Taken from a recent SafeWise report, Anniston, Alabama, experiences more crime per capita than anywhere else in the country. Experience with violent crime in Alabama isn’t congruent with levels of concern. Violent crime was the second-least experienced safety issue — 10% of Alabama participants reported a personal experience with violent crime in the past year, compared to 24% that experienced a digital security issue. States that report higher levels of personal experience (either themselves or a household member) with violent crime include Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, New York, and Tennessee.

Property Crime Findings: Home invasions make Americans feel uneasy and fearful—some perceive additional risk with break-ins escalating into a more serious violent crime. Break-ins, theft, and robberies come up often. People are concerned about the expense to replace lost property as well as feeling unsettled by an invasion of privacy.

Property crime is a close second to violent crime in terms of the most concerning issue. More people are worried about having a break-in than having valuables stolen. Someone breaking into their home (whether they are home or not) is the biggest concern. Many already have automobile and homeowners insurance which may explain, in part, the lower concern for theft. Across states, Alaska and Nevada are more likely to rank property crime as most concerning compared to other states. States that report higher levels of personal experience (either themselves or a household member) with property crime include Alaska, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, and Washington. New Mexico reported the highest number of personal experiences with property crime over the past year—25%. Alaska was second with 22%.

While some are concerned about a vehicle break-in, fewer people fear it as a personal threat. Vandalism, though mentioned less often, is seen as a costly annoyance, but not a threat to physical safety. Vandals are seen to be teenagers and people with drug issues.

Digital Security Findings: Americans are concerned about digital security because of the risk of personal information being released, such as financial information or personal details that could be used in identity theft. But few correlate this risk with personal danger. Hacking is the top digital security concern. It is seen as a frustration, and a gateway to various losses (identity theft, financial breaches, computer viruses). Many feel powerless to stop or correct a hack.

Financial losses related to stolen credit card numbers or access to banking information are mentioned often because they are seen as common events. Of those who have had a personal experience (either themselves or a household member) with a digital security issue, nearly half have been hacked through their email or through phishing. The top digital security concerns are related to someone having access to sensitive information, being a target for identity theft, or being hacked by a stranger.

Colorado, Montana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are more likely to rank digital security as most concerning compared with other states. Demographically, males and those aged 55 and older are significantly more likely to rank digital security as most concerning.

Health and Wellness Findings: Health and wellness concerns in the home and community are still top of mind for Americans, but they’re not as important when compared to life-threatening issues. Respondents aged 18–34 are significantly more likely to rank health and wellness as most concerning. Arkansas, Georgia, and Rhode Island rank health and wellness most concerning more than any other state. States higher for personally experiencing or having a household member who has experienced health and wellness issues include: California, New York, Oregon, and Tennessee.

Environmental Safety Findings: Climate change and poor air quality top the list when it comes to environmental safety concerns. Americans see climate change as a key factor that leads to extreme weather events and natural disasters. Flooding is the most frequently mentioned concern because it is seen as a common event that can destroy irreplaceable belongings. Wildfires, tornadoes, and hurricanes are other natural disasters that people are worried about. Poor air quality is another big concern (as a result of pollution and wildfire smoke, among other things). Breathing issues are the most-recognized threat of toxins in the air, with few other physical ailments noted. One-third of Americans have personally experienced an environmental safety issue before, likely driving high concern. The most concerning issues related to the environment along with poor air quality/air pollution is the quality of surface and groundwater.

Demographically, those aged 55 and older are significantly more likely to rank environmental issues as most concerning. Across states, Florida, Oklahoma, and Wyoming are more likely to rank environmental issues as most concerning compared with other states. States higher in personally experiencing or having a household member who has experienced environmental issues include: Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota.

Workplace Safety Findings: General harassment in the workplace is the most frequently mentioned workplace concern. Specific mentions of harassment include workplace bullying, discrimination (mentioned by some minorities), and sexual harassment (mentioned mostly by women). Workplace safety issues are of lowest concern to Americans, but in this category, job security is the highest concern. For stated concerns, lack of compensation or reward, work overload, and losing their job rise to the top. North Dakota and Texas are more likely to rank workplace safety most concerning compared with other states. States higher in personally experiencing or having a household member who has experienced workplace safety issues include: Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, Mississippi, and Oregon. White people show significantly lower levels of concern for all workplace issues.

Author: USA Really