Neighbourhood Support groups can reduce crime by up to 28%

Safer Communities

Neighbours looking out for each other

We all want to be safe in our homes. The best way to reduce this kind of crime is for communities and the Police to work together.

Community support groups were introduced to New Zealand in 1979. They were aimed at reducing crime by encouraging people to look out for each other in their neighbourhood.

The success of the original Neighbourhood Watch scheme led to Neighbourhood Support and later Rural Support, all of which have come under the general term of "community support".

These schemes recognised that, with the Police, communities could reduce crime and foster a feeling of security and well-being. It also recognised that crime was not just the Police's responsibility.

Fewer homes have been burgled in the last five years because of community support groups. It's that simple.

Neighbourhood Support New Zealand Inc was set up to help in and promote the neighbourhood support concept throughout New Zealand. With the Police, they can tell you if there is someone in your area who can help you to start a neighbourhood support group. Or a rural support group if you live in the country.

You can contact them on 0800 4 NEIGHBOURS or visit their website at www.neighbourhoodsupport.co.nz to see if they have a representative in your area.

By forming a group, you and your neighbours can support each other and combine your local knowledge to protect people and property.

The Police, with other community safety organisations, can also give you new information and skills to help you in an emergency.

What are community support groups?

A support group helps to reduce local crime. It can respond quickly to emergencies and it can help to solve community problems. A support group is especially important for older people and those who live alone, they gain comfort from knowing that help is nearby. Older people can often contribute much knowledge and time as these groups don't take a lot of time or entail a lot of work. That's why they are so successful.

Community support groups were introduced to New Zealand in 1979 with the aim of reducing crime by empowering community members to look after one another. The success of the original Neighbourhood Watch scheme led to Neighbourhood Support and later Rural Support, all of which have come under the general term of "community support".

These initiatives recognised that, in partnership with the Police, communities could reduce crime and thereby have a positive effect by fostering a feeling of security and wellbeing. It also recognised that crime was not just the responsibility of the Police.

In many areas, support groups have drawn community members together, as they discuss their own particular circumstances and methods of keeping their community safe. For some people - particularly those who might feel vulnerable such as the elderly or women living alone - support groups can provide a sense of security they would not otherwise have.

 Community support groups are active throughout the country, not only ensuring the physical security of its members but also responding to social problems. They can be instrumental in identifying and dealing with crimes such as family violence and sexual offences. And the victims of crime are offered support within the community to help them with court appearances, welfare and so on.

Support groups can be informal, such as watching out for a neighbour's house while they are away, or in the nature of a formal group that holds regular meetings and plans safer community strategies.

They are generally established from the desire of a small group of residents to strengthen their sense of security, for any number of reasons. It may be that a burglary has occurred, or that it's holiday time and neighbours are discussing how their homes will be safeguarded while they are away.

The success of these groups, like many organisations, depends on the commitment of its members. It does not usually involve a lot of work, but what is important is the desire to act together for the common good.

A small group of 10 to 12 houses in a street is a good number to start a community support group. Ring a community constable and arrange a time for the group to get together with the Police officer to discuss how best to set up the group, the issues that concern you and the best way to look after each other. A meeting at someone's house is ideal. Make the meeting informal and relaxed.

Other support groups may be operating in your area. Find out where they are and link up with them.

Appoint a street coordinator for your group who can arrange meetings and liaise with other groups. If there are other groups in your street, liaise with them and appoint a street co-ordinator, who can provide a link between the groups and a larger neighbourhood-wide group. This neighbourhood-wide group might also have an area co-ordinator who can liaise with the Police and distribute information back to the street and group co-ordinators.

Some support groups hold public meetings and distribute regular newsletters to get information out to the community.

In rural communities, a support group might be just a few houses but cover a wide area. Groups can be established for much the same reasons as those in suburban areas, but lines of communication are likely to be different because of the physical distance between properties. Work out with those in the group how you will call each other for help and when each of you is home. If properties are within sight and sound of each other, consider ways of alerting each other such as fog horns, sirens, electric bells, car horns, flares, torches or flashing vehicle lights.

Don't go alone if you respond to a call for help. Get another neighbour to meet you there, or at least let them know where you are going and get them to come and help if they have not heard from you within a specified time. Rural groups should contact elderly neighbours or people with disabilities regularly to see if they are OK.

The network philosophy of neighbourhood support groups has also worked well in civil defence emergencies. They can act first to make the community aware of its responsibilities, prepare the community for an emergency, and then act as the first response team if an emergency occurs. It is likely that in a big event such as a severe earthquake or flooding, communities will have to look after themselves for some time before rescue teams can be activated and services such as water and power can be restored.

A well-coordinated support group could be the difference between life and death in such situations.

Safer communities with the Police

The Police will always respond to emergencies where a child's life or immediate well-being is in danger. However, they also recognise that they can build safer communities by helping parents create a safe and positive home life for their children.

The Police have many programmes that encourage young people to take a responsible role in society and to contribute positively to the community in which they live. One of these programmes is the Law Related Education Programme.

Specially trained Police officers, in partnership with teachers, social workers and community workers, help educate children about such topics as crime prevention, traffic safety, community policing and victim support. Two of the biggest programmes under the Law Related Education umbrella are Keeping Ourselves Safe, a very successful programme for children about the dangers of sexual abuse, and DARE, which looks at drug and alcohol issues.

The Police have also been involved in programmes such as: The Role of the Police; Safe Walking; Safe Cycling; Safely Home; Minder (babysitting); Fingerprinting; Emergency Situations (dial 111); Keeping Law and Order; Lost; Search and Rescue; Stealing; Vandalism; Kia Ka Ha (bullying). The Children, Young Persons and Their Families Service The Children, Young Persons and Their Families Service sees as its vision "all families meeting their care, control and support responsibilities". The service works with other groups for the protection, well-being and best management of children in safe families.

Oranga Tamariki aims to include family/whanau in the decision-making process for children and young people. It provides care and protection for children and young people when they are believed to be "at-risk" because they are experiencing (or are likely to experience) such things as physical or sexual abuse, violence and conflict between their caregivers, emotional or physical neglect, or mistreatment from caregivers

The service also provides youth justice, which is a special section of the law that deals with offending by children aged 10-13 years and young people aged 14-16 years. Children and young people who break the law are treated differently from adults who offend. The law makes sure they are accountable and encouraged to accept responsibility for their offending, but also aims to help young offenders learn from their mistakes and develop in a socially acceptable way.

The Adoption Service is a branch of Oranga Tamariki that provides advice on adoption both within New Zealand and from other countries. Community Councils The Crime Prevention Unit of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has in place a long term strategy that focuses on crime prevention and community safety. It is a strategy that involves not only the Government and its agencies but also communities and individual members of those communities.

The strategy aims to coordinate efforts to develop solutions to the problems of offending and antisocial behaviour. As a result, more than 50 Safer Community Councils have been established throughout New Zealand. The councils have been entrusted with putting in place social crime prevention strategies, which include several areas designed to protect and enhance the safety and well-being of children.

Seven key areas identified are:

  • Supporting "at-risk" families.
  • Reducing family violence.
  • Targeting youth "at-risk" of offending.
  • Minimising the formal involvement of casual offenders within the criminal justice system (diversion).
  • Developing an approach for the management of programmes that address the misuse and abuse of both alcohol and drugs.
  • Addressing the incidence of white-collar crime.
  • Addressing the concerns of victims and potential victims.

The Hillary Commission The Hillary Commission aims to improve the lifestyle of all New Zealanders by promoting and developing sport, fitness and leisure activities. The commission was established to not only encourage top-level sporting achievements but also to get ordinary people involved in sport and leisure activities. It recognises that participation in regular activities builds healthy, confident people, local pride and strong, cohesive communities, and a strong sense of national identity and pride. It puts an emphasis on junior sport, saying that the kids who have a go, feel part of the action and play sport designed especially for them, will grow up with great memories.

Those who are left on the bench, forced to play with much bigger kids or stuck at home because no one would coach their team will probably be the first to drop out. A big proportion of the commission's funds (from the Lotteries Grants Board with a top-up from the Government), goes to community activities, where everyone is encouraged to participate, regardless of their age, fitness or physical ability.

Safer communities with family/whanau workers

The core of the Family Start programme is home visiting by a family/whanau worker. This person works with the family to identify priorities and to support them to achieve their goals. A family may be involved with many different agencies. The family/whanau worker acts as an advocate and coordinator between all agencies to ensure that the family’s priorities are met. Families can be referred for Family Start by doctors, lead maternity carers such as midwives, child health services, Plunket or hospital maternity services. The family/whanau must consent to the referral first.

Safer communities for Maori children and their parents

Atawhaingia Te Pa Harakeke: nurture the whanau, starts with the premise that all parents and whanau want the best for themselves and for their children. They want to see their kids growing up healthy and strong, enjoying childhood, going to school, learning what they need to learn so that they can live responsible and productive lives. Atawhaingia Te Pa Harakeke looks to traditional Maori customs and values as an available source of a wealth of positive guidance.

These tikanga are capable of assisting whanau to develop caring and nurturing homes for their children. The programme gives concrete expression to these cultural practices, made up of two distinct yet connected strands of learning: Hakorotanga for parents; and He Taonga Te Mokopuna for young children. Hakorotanga provides practical ideas that all parents can use to achieve the best possible results for their whanau. Often the missing ingredient to success is merely knowledge, understanding or skills to help create the right climate in the home. He Taonga Te Mokopuna helps children to develop ways to keep themselves safe.

It also requires whanau and other caregivers to build safety nets that provide assurance and support in turn to the children. This enables the whole community, including the children, to recognise unsafe situations, and actively safeguard against them. Atawhaingia Te Pa Harakeke: nurture the whanau, was devised within Early Childhood Development, and has been trialled on the marae.

Safer Community Councils

The Government recognised in 1992 that crime prevention and community safety was an issue that had to be tackled with a holistic and proactive approach - the involvement of not only the Government and its agencies, but also communities and the members that lived within them. In 1993, a long-term Crime Prevention Strategy was issued from the Crime Prevention Unit of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. It was based on the premise that a partnership between central Government and the community was critical to the success of any moves to stop crime.

It aimed to better coordinate efforts and resources of both the Government and individual communities to develop positive solutions to the problems of offending and anti-social behaviour. As a result, more than 50 Safer Community Councils have been established throughout New Zealand.

The councils have been entrusted with putting in place social crime prevention strategies, which have been identified in seven key areas:

  • Supporting "at-risk" families.
  • Reducing family violence.
  • Targeting youth "at-risk" of offending.
  • Minimising the formal involvement of casual offenders within the criminal justice system (diversion).
  • Developing an approach for the management of programmes that address the misuse and abuse of both alcohol and drugs.
  • Addressing the incidence of white-collar crime.
  • Addressing the concerns of victims and potential victims.

Most community councils are sponsored by local authorities, but some are iwi sponsored. They receive Government funding. They are made up of people who have expertise and an interest in community crime prevention, including business people, health and education workers, iwi representatives and Government agencies such as the Police and Social Welfare.

The councils coordinate existing crime prevention programmes and help develop new initiatives (see separate section Older and Safer). They work with community groups to plan solutions to local problems, put individuals in touch with services, groups or agencies that can meet their needs, ensure people get the right help when they need it, and put resources where they are needed most.

They also network with services to help victims of crime and those who fear crime; with services for disadvantaged families whose members might be more likely to offend; with groups working with perpetrators of crime to help change behaviour; with "at risk" youth; and with people who have drug or alcohol problems.

Commonsense-plus structure

A community support group can result in a better quality of life in your area. Everyone is encouraged to think ahead and to notice things.

Group members learn to:

  • Recognise the signs that a crime is being planned
  • Report any suspicious events immediately
  • Prevent burglaries
  • Protect their property
  • Keep people safe

Street signs and stickers

Signs advertising your community support group send a powerful message. Stick them on telephone poles, letterboxes and fences. When criminals see these signs they usually go away.

Know your neighbours

The most important step to a safer community is to know your neighbours. Know their routines, and know when your neighbours are going on holiday or business trips. Swap holiday addresses and phone numbers. Know when they expect visitors and tradespeople and if you think something is wrong, phone your local Police station at once. For anything urgent, dial 111.

How to be a good neighbour If your neighbours are away, you can help in many ways. Offer to make their house look lived in by:

  • turning on lights and television at night
  • drawing curtains at night and opening them in the day
  • mowing lawns
  • clearing their mail, especially junk mail and newspapers
  • using their clothesline or driveway sometimes

Be alert

Watch their home. Question strangers, but don't say the neighbours are away. Notice any strangers around your neighbourhood, including children.

Write down their description, and note the time and date.

Write down the registration number of unfamiliar cars, vans, motorbikes or trucks. Report anything suspicious to your local Police station.

Starting a neighbourhood support group is easy. First, discuss the idea with a few neighbours and together, decide how big you want your network to be. The best size for effectiveness is six to twelve houses. Ask if there is a local Neighbourhood Support Officer in your area, the Police should be able to tell you who that is. Or you can contact Neighbourhood Support on 0800 463 444 or email: kelsey@neighbourhoodsupport.co.nz to get the information. You'll learn lots of ways you might structure your group - every group is different because every neighbourhood is different.

Groups appoint a group contact person and sometimes a street and/or area contact person, but you can do things your own way, just make sure that the work is shared!

Should you invite everyone in your neighbourhood to join your group? You can just start with the people you know. If your neighbours include some people you don't trust there's no need to invite them to join your group. But you might also consider that good neighbours are often discovered through the process of meeting people you may have previously had little to do with and might have held misconceptions about.

Starting a rural support group

These are exactly like neighbourhood support groups, except that in the country your neighbourhood is larger and probably sparsely populated. Most country districts already have a strong community network, a rural support group makes that network more efficient. Discuss practical ways of calling for help, for example; sirens, car horns, fog horns, mobiles, or flashing car-lights.

Avoid going alone when you respond to a call for help. If you do, at least tell somebody first, or call your local Police and let them know what you are doing. Your safety is most important.

Keep learning

Invite key people to meetings to advise or train your neighbourhood support group. This helps to keep the group alive. Having the occasional public meeting can get more people joining in, too. For example, you could invite:

  • Your community constable or local Police to advise about safety matters.
  • A Civil Defence officer to tell you what to do in a disaster.
  • A qualified first aid trainer to teach you first aid including CPR.
  • A self-defence instructor.

Community Patrols of New Zealand

Community Patrols of New Zealand (CPNZ) Charitable Trust was set up in May 2001. Local Community Patrol members are drawn from the community and help their local Police to reduce crime. A total of 150 communities have formed such patrols. Volunteers go out in two-person teams for a few hours during the night. They probably do their stint once a month. They are not Police volunteers. Patrollers not only help themselves and their community but the Police too, as eyes and ears.

Community Patrol groups are in all Police Districts. Each patrol is organised and run by its members. Each has a Police liaison officer, generally the local community constable. The Police provide training, and CPNZ has training materials available.

A community without a patrol, and which wishes to form one, can contact either their local community constable or CPNZ, which will help to set up a group.

Don’t let them take your car 

Theft of vehicles and from vehicles is still a major problem in New Zealand. Apart from the personal upset and inconvenience of having your vehicle stolen, insurance companies pay out (through your premiums) about $110 million a year.

Dealing with vehicle-related theft also ties up valuable police resources.

Most car thieves are looking for easy targets to take joy- riding, to strip for parts to use or sell, or a vehicle to use to commit a crime. The car is then dumped and often trashed or burnt out. Some vehicles are “re-birthed”, which means thieves use a real vehicle identification number – usually from a pranged vehicle – and apply it to a stolen vehicle of the same age, make and model. The stolen vehicle is then re-registered and sold to an unsuspecting buyer.

Theft from vehicles includes property such as wheels, stereos and personal items – purses and wallets, clothing, briefcases, laptops, cell phones and so on. Most of the time, thieves just force a lock or smash a window.

Reduce the risk

The police suggest the following steps will reduce the risk of having your vehicle stolen or broken into. Keep your keys with you and keep spares keys at home or work.

  • Don’t hide a spare key on the car – thieves will find it.
  • Always lock your car, including the boot and the sunroof if you have one.
  • Park in busy, open, well-lit areas if possible.
  • Use an attended, secure parking building if possible.
  • If you have your vehicle in a garage at home, lock the garage and the car.

Contents

  • Don’t leave things where people can see them.
  • Take your valuable stuff with you or leave it at home – not in the glove-box or under a seat.
  • Keep larger items such as bags, luggage, coats etc locked out of sight in the boot.
  • Keep a record of car stereo serial numbers.

Other ideas

Some of these steps might reduce your insurance premiums (talk to your insurance company).

  • Install a car alarm
  • Install an electronic engine immobiliser – they make it really hard to hot-wire or start a car without the right key, which contains an electronic code.
  • Use a steering wheel club or lock, lockable fuel cap and lockable wheel nuts.
  • Etch your registration or Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on windows, windscreens and headlights.

Beware when buying

If you’re buying a vehicle and you want to be sure it’s a legitimate sale:

  • Ensure the seller of the vehicle is the registered owner (if not, why not).
  • Does the seller have both sets of keys?
  • Does the seller have the original logbooks and history of service?
  • Check all identification plates, engine and chassis numbers for tampering.

You can check online to see if a vehicle’s listed as stolen at www.police.govt.nz/stolen/vehicles. It’s a great website you can use to enter the vehicle’s registration number, VIN, engine or chassis number. The database the site accesses is updated by police three times per day, but there could be a brief delay in stolen vehicles appearing and in recovered vehicles being cleared from the list.

You can also download a file of stolen vehicles from the past six months by area, or all of New Zealand.

Found a stolen vehicle?

If you see a stolen vehicle being driven or if the occupants are nearby, call the police on 111 and let them deal with it. Don’t chase a stolen vehicle.

If it’s been abandoned, call your local police station. Remember if you want to report it but don’t want anyone knowing who you are, call anonymously to Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111.

Your motorcycle

Don’t let the thieves get your bike, either.

  • Keep your keys on you at all times.
  • Use an ignition or steering lock.
  • Use a strong, thick chain and “U” lock. Keep the chain off the ground to make it harder to cut.
  • Secure your motorcycle to something solid that can’t be moved.
  • Keep your helmet with you or use a helmet lock.
  • Install an alarm or other anti-theft/immobiliser device.
  • Etch or mark your motorcycle with your registration or Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
  • Garage your motorcycle and lock the bike and the garage.
  • Use a motorcycle cover.

Rape and sexual assault

Sexual assault myths and facts

Myth: Sexual assaults are only committed by strangers.

Fact: The majority of people who commit sexual assaults know their victims and in some cases are relations, friends or work colleagues. Partners and spouses can also commit sexual assaults.

Myth: Rape is a 'spur of the moment' act.

Fact: Most rapists plan carefully in advance, and set up situations so the rape can take place. A rapist is capable of raping again and again.

Myth: Rape only happens when men lose their self-control.

Fact: Men who rape know exactly what they are doing. Research shows that men who sexually offend often do so to gain a sense of power and authority.

Myth: A woman can't be raped by her husband.

Fact: Rape in marriage is not uncommon. It's also a crime. When a spouse is forced to have sex through emotional or financial blackmail it is rape. Rape or sexual assaults can occur within marriage and/or relationships whether the victims are heterosexual or homosexual.

Myth: It is not that serious. I don’t need to report it as it won’t happen again.

Fact: Rape and/or sexual assault are criminal offences which carry sentences of imprisonment. The perpetrator may reoffend if they are not challenged by Police.

Myth: Women 'ask for it' by the way they dress or behave.

Fact: This is like saying that someone wants to be robbed because they have money in their wallet. Rapists look for easy targets, not women who dress or behave in a particular way. Nobody asks to be hurt or degraded.

Myth: Only young women are raped.

Fact: Rape is an act of violence that can happen at any time in a person’s life regardless of age, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender.

Myth: 'Men cannot be sexually assaulted'.

Fact: Any unwanted sexual contact against any person by any other person is a sexual assault.

Myth: 'Male rape is a gay crime'.

Fact: Sexual assault is ultimately about power, control or domination of the other person, rather than a sexual attraction to one specific gender.

Myth: ‘Women always lie about rape.’

Fact: Women are more likely to deny or minimise sexual assault experiences than make them up. Those working with male sex offenders say one of the hardest things is overcoming the men’s denial that they did anything wrong.

Myth: ‘Alcohol causes rape.’

Fact: Alcohol can reduce inhibitions, but does not remove the responsibility of raping, or justify a victim being raped. ‘Having sex’ with a person too drunk to consent, or asleep or unconscious, is rape.

Information from: https://www.police.govt.nz/advice/sexual-assault/myths-and-facts

Drug rape & sexual assault

Drug rape is happening to women, men and children in New Zealand. It is one of the fastest-growing crimes. The victim is drugged by sedatives, tranquillisers and antihistamines and then sexually assaulted. A person cannot consent to sexual activity when under the influence of these drugs.

A growing crime

Sexual activity without consent is illegal. These drugs can be injected, "snorted" or swallowed (most often the assailant has spiked the victim's drink). Drugging not only occurs in bars and nightclubs. It happens in workplaces, gang residences, parties, and in the victim's or perpetrator's house. Drug rapes are planned the perpetrators carry the drugs with them.

Perpetrators can work alone or with others. The victim is often seen acting drunk (whether or not they have been drinking alcohol) and being escorted "home" by one or more people who might be known to the victim.

Prevention

Always be aware of the danger that, wherever you are, someone might try to spike your drink.

  • Never leave a drink unattended. If you go to the toilet, take it with you if you can. If you have left it unattended, do not drink it.
  • Do not accept a drink offered by a stranger.
  • Even if workmates or acquaintances offer you a drink, make sure you see it either poured or opened. Ensure that no one but the barperson touches it before you drink it.
  • If a group of you go out together, nominate someone who will not be drinking (for example, the designated driver), to keep an eye on the group's drinks.
  • These drugs are tasteless and odourless.
  • Rohypnol has a blue dye added to it, but that doesn't show up for almost 20 minutes. Nor does it show up in red wine, in cola or any other dark drinks. It cannot be seen in a coloured bottle, such as beer and some wine bottles.
  • Where possible, drink out of a bottle or can. It is much more difficult to spike a bottle or can than it is to drop a drug into a drink in an open glass.
  • Not drinking alcohol doesn't necessarily make you safe. Tea, coffee, milk, milkshakes, soft-drinks and "energy" drinks can be spiked, too.

How to tell if your drink has been spiked

We're usually aware of our tolerance to alcohol. If you feel odd, nauseous, slightly drunk or wasted after only a couple of drinks, and you know that you should not be drunk, your drink might well have been spiked. If you are with friends or relatives, tell them of your worries. Ask them to get you out of the place as soon as possible and to get you home either in their car or by cab. Once safely home, ask them to stay with you until the drugs' effects have worn off in the morning. Be very sure that you implicitly trust the person or friend you’re asking. Overseas, victims have been raped by people they knew – workmates and colleagues, friends of friends or acquaintances, and the date they went out with that night.

Get to a safe place

If you are alone or with a stranger, go and tell the bar manager. It is important to get to a safe place quickly. Ask the manager to put you in an office while they ring a taxi or a friend, or your parents to get you home safely. If possible, always make sure that you are accompanied by a trusted friend.

Don't ever let a stranger offer to help you or take you anywhere – the stranger could be the potential rapist.

These drugs can be legal or illegal. They take effect within 15-30 minutes and usually induce a blackout period of between 6-12 hours.

  • The drugs' effect is often magnified when combined with alcohol.
  • The drugs are metabolised and excreted from the body by urine over time.
  • Often the victim cannot remember what happened.
  • Victims of drug rape might wake up feeling dizzy and disoriented or clear-headed and fresh – different sedatives have different aftereffects.
  • Occasionally the victim has flashbacks, or a brief memory of some part of the rape and might recall being unable to move.
  • They might wake up naked and/or with tenderness signifying sexual activity. Bruising and tenderness can be recorded as evidence in a forensic medical exam.
  • Victims might feel that because they don't know what has happened they cannot get help or report the crime. The Police say that the presence of such drugs in a victim's blood is admissible as evidence.

Testing for drugs

  • Most of these drugs remain in the body for 48-72 hours after the victim regains consciousness (this time period varies from drug to drug).
  • The Police have test-kits and the sexual assault medical examination kit.
  • If a victim does not want to report the rape to the Police, she or he can still get a blood test through a GP. Rape crisis groups recommend that a Doctor for Sexual Abuse Care-trained doctor or Police surgeon in your area be contacted for advice as soon as possible.

If you are attacked or raped

Most people know their attacker. The risk of being attacked by a stranger is small. You can reduce this risk even further by thinking ahead. Be careful and use your common sense – then you're unlikely to be attacked by a stranger. If attacked, what should you do? There's no simple answer – except that your main aim should be to escape and get to safety. You usually have several options. Self-defence courses train you to think fast and practise all the following skills. One or more will feel right for you.

  • Try to calm your attacker by talking quietly and reasonably. Then escape.
  • Scream an angry scream (not a frightened one). Shout or swear at your attacker. Then escape.
  • Hit your attacker with a simple self-defence action. For example, bend your attacker's fingers back, stamp on their foot, poke their eyes, knee their groin or jab your elbow in their face. Then escape. (These need to be practised. You will probably get only one chance, so make it good.)

After a sexual attack or rape

Dial 111 immediately and ask for the Police, even if you know the attacker. Your evidence is important. It could save other people from being attacked. Don't blame yourself – blame the rapist. You need help. If you can, get yourself to a safe place as quickly as possible. Don't have a bath or shower.

Ask someone to come and support you. You need someone with you while you talk to the Police. The Police prefer you to have that support. Call a friend, or one of the organisations that help people in crisis. These groups are experienced at handling rape crisis. They can help you to make sensible decisions and to start healing.

Help after being attacked or raped

See our directory page for a list of available help resources in New Zealand.

Self-defence

Do a self-defence course. They teach you how to keep out of danger – and they're fun. Most people feel more confident after this training. Contact the Citizens Advice Bureau or the Police for information about courses in your area.

Stay safe around water

Drowning is the third most common cause of accidental death in New Zealand, behind road vehicle accidents and falls.

Being safe in the water doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, but thinking about your safety and that of family and friends can save lives.

As an island country, New Zealand has a wealth of water-based activities. Whether it’s a swim at the beach, a dip in the river, adrenaline-packed white- water rafting, fishing from rocks, out on the boat or anything else involving water, the best thing you can do before heading out is to familiarise yourself with the appropriate safety information.

As with most activities there’s an element of risk, so make sure you challenge yourself within your limits and ask questions before heading out. Always remember the four rules of the Water Safety Code.

1. Be prepared

Learn to swim and survive, and set rules for safe play in the water.  Always use safe and correct equipment and know the weather and water conditions before you get in.

2. Watch out for yourself and others

Always pay close attention to children you are supervising in or near water. Swim with others and in areas where lifeguards are present.

3. Be aware of the dangers

Enter shallow and unknown water feet first and obey all safety signs and warning flags. Don’t enter the water after drinking alcohol.

4. Know your limits

Challenge yourself within your physical limits and experience. Learn safe ways of rescuing others without putting yourself in danger.

Boating

If you’re heading out on a boat, remember the rules of the Boating Safety Code.

1. Life jackets – take them, wear them

Boats, especially ones of less that 6 metres in length, can sink very quickly. Wearing a life-jacket increases your survival time in the water.

2. Skipper responsibility

The skipper is responsible for the safety of everyone on board and for the safe operation of the boat. Stay within the limits of your vessel and your experience. Go on a Coastguard Boating Education day skipper course to make sure you have all the skills you need to stay safe.

3. Communications

Take two separate waterproof ways of communicating so you can call for help if you get into difficulty.

4. Marine weather

New Zealand’s weather can be highly unpredictable. Check the local marine weather forecast before you go and expect both weather and sea changes.

5. Avoid alcohol

Safe boating and alcohol don’t mix. Things can change quickly on the water. You need to stay alert and aware.

For more information on the Water Safety Code and the Boating Safety Code, visit www.adventuresmart.org.nz

Children Under 5s

Water is a life-threatening hazard for young children in and around the home. Make sure you keep you eyes on your children when they’re in or around water – including in the bath.

Children learn by exploring their environment – new adventures are only a few steps away – so don’t let your guard down around any body of water. It takes only 60 seconds for a child to drown.

For more information, see http://www.watersafety.org. nz/education/recreation-advice/under-5s/

Learning to swim

While many people think everyone knows how to swim, the scary thing is that a lot of kids today can’t.

Make sure your kids have the opportunity to learn to swim – either at school, at a private swim school, or even by teaching them yourself!

For more information, see www.sealordswimforlife.org.nz

Hypothermia

Participation in activities in and around water, not just accidental entry into the water, increases the possibility of hypothermia. Be aware of hypothermia when canoeing, fishing or swimming outdoors. In all cases of ‘man overboard’, presume hypothermia will be a possibility.

Prevention of Hypothermia:

  • Wear many layers of suitable clothing, both in and out of the water.
  • The more wind or waterproof clothing, the better.
  • If setting out in cold, wet windy conditions continually look out for symptoms of exhaustion or hypothermia in others.
  • The greatest heat loss is through the head, neck and the backs of hands. Wear a hat and pair of gloves if cold.
  • Prevent excessive fatigue as this can contribute to hypothermia.
  • Eat or drink high energy foods frequently.
  • If possible, keep warm and dry.
  • Avoid the consumption of alcohol.
  • Clothing, such as polypropylene, will keep you warm when wet, and are excellent for canoeing and other outdoor activities.

Keep Still

Although swimming will make you feel warmer, it is a false sensation. Energy spent on moving rather than maintaining warmth will eventually cool the bodyís core. Air is warmer than water and heat loss is greater in water than in air of the same temperature, even though the chill factor may feel greater. If you find yourself in the water with floating objects, e.g. the upturned boat, then raise as much of your torso as possible out of the water.

Water safety at beaches

Whenever possible, use patrolled beaches and make sure everyone swims between the lifeguard flags, but don’t rely just on lifeguards to watch out for your children. Become more aware of surf conditions - learn to read the waves. Different types affect how safe it is for swimming. Supervision of children is essential when near water. Drowning is a silent death. Things you can do:

  • Always be in the water with your children, you are on the spot if anything unexpected happens.
  • Be wary of letting your children play with inflatable toys and toy animals, water wings and tubes as these have not been specifically designed to protect your child in the water.
  • Offshore breeze will move these quickly and your child will follow.
  • Even if your child can swim, they are not strong enough to deal with tides and rips.
  • Watch out for and avoid rips - a calm spot of water where surf is not breaking; it indicates an area where a strong undertow could pull a swimmer underwater and out to sea.
  • In a group situation: identify which adult will supervise which children. Share responsibility, it is hard to identify people in the water.
  • It is not advisable to swim alone. Snorkelling and diving should always be undertaken with a buddy.
  • To clear pressure in your ears underwater, hold your nostrils and blow gently - you will feel your ears pop.
  • If you feel tired, leave the water immediately, rest awhile before continuing.
  • Hyperventilation makes you feel light headed and panicky - blackout could follow.
  • Slow and steady, don’t be overconfident, take care of yourself and others in the water.
  • Always be alert to changes in the weather and water conditions - winds, tides, rips and waves.
  • Small bodies travel fast in water so watch for rogue waves which suddenly sweep up the beach.
  • What was a safe pool of water can suddenly change with a sweeping wave.
  • If your child is playing with a boogie board, it is a good idea to get them to wear fins or flippers as well. This will allow them to kick their way out of trouble if they get caught in an unexpected rip or hole.
  • Make sure children (and adults) wait for an hour after eating before swimming. This will help to stop cramps that can cause temporary paralysis in the water.
  • Don’t drink alcohol at the beach - not only will you be less capable of watching out for your children, but you will also be less able to swim properly.
  • Make sure your children wear appropriate clothing. Jeans are unsafe for swimming as they can get waterlogged and pull a child under the water.

Water safety at rivers

  • Keep small children away from sandy edges of estuaries, these can be undermined and break away.
  • Check for underwater weed, this can trap a toddler. Remember children cannot call out from under water.
  • Check the river for hazards even downstream from where you plan to swim.
  • Avoid diving into unknown waters.
  • Avoid swimming in pools that run on to fast moving water or have back eddies.
  • Avoid swimming near overhead bridges.
  • Don’t think because a river appears calm that it provides safe swimming.
  • Never underestimate the POWER of a river.
  • Avoid areas where there may be snags or tree-lined banks, above and below bridges.

Water safety when boating

Have rules for the boat and enforce them.

  • A boat is not a safe play area.
  • Teach your child to float should they fall overboard.
  • Be the captain of your boat, insist on everything being stored away after use, e.g. fishing gear.
  • Don’t allow horseplay on boats, this could lead to tragedy.
  • Always maintain regular safety checks on your boat, radio equipment, and lifejackets.

Water first aid

If you find a child in a water emergency, call 111 immediately, or get someone to contact emergency help while you care for the child.

S-R-A-B-C is the key to responding:

S for Safety - think about the child's safety and your own, if you are the rescuer. Remove the child from the water and try to keep them warm and comfortable.

R for Response - assess the child's level of responsiveness, speak to them and if necessary shout to rouse them, or shake them gently (never shake violently).

A for Airway - if you get no response, tilt the head back slightly and drop the child's chin to open their airway.

B for Breathing - look and listen for breathing and feel for a pulse. If there are no signs of breathing, apply mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Administer one slow, full breath, then check the child for a pulse or breathing.

C for Circulation - Can you feel a pulse? If so, stay with the child and monitor closely until help arrives. If there is no pulse, apply CPR (see section on CPR).

Road safety

Driving down the road toll

New Zealand's annual road toll since 1990 has dropped about 38%, despite 27% more vehicles on the road and 17% more people. This is mainly because of a steady commitment to reduce road deaths by the Government and the Police.

Every year hundreds of people die and families and friends suffer because people endanger others' lives by driving dangerously. The cost of road crashes - emergency services, medical care, reparation and human grief - is enormous. Long after the sirens have faded and the wreckage has been cleared away the impact continues to be felt, often for years.

The social cost of each fatality is $3,065,000, and each serious injury $535,000. Broadly, this is the cost of hospital and medical treatment and care, the loss of output, loss of life, disability, property damage, and legal and court costs.

More children die and are injured in traffic crashes than any other form of accident. On average, a child is injured every day on New Zealand roads, and one dies on average every 18 days.

Road safety is an important part of the Police’s work. In 2000, the new Government believed it was important enough to re-establish a separate traffic force to deal specifically with traffic safety and enforcement. The new highway patrol would be dedicated solely to traffic duties.

Key road safety messages from the Police and New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) have screened on television and in the press. In one commercial, family members die because seatbelts are not worn; in another hard-hitting series of commercials, a teenage driver injured in a crash is shunned by his mates and has to be helped by his mother with his toileting. The Police believe the messages are important if New Zealand is to improve its death and injury statistics. Education is a key feature of the Police campaign to change road habits.

Officers spend many hours in classrooms and at schools helping children understand road safety. However, parents still have the greatest influence and can greatly minimise traffic danger if they help their children learn some basic road safety rules, and if they follow the rules themselves. If you jaywalk across the road, ride a bicycle without a helmet or run red lights, your children will soon be confused about what they should be doing. Chances are they will follow what you do, not what you say. Avoid double standards by setting an example. As soon as a child is old enough to move about, they have the potential to be involved in a road accident. That is why it is crucial that parents keep toddlers away from the roads by keeping doors and gates closed or the child under close supervision.

When they are old enough for school, go with them over the route they will be taking. If they are to walk to school, walk with them a few days beforehand and look for the safest route, keeping an eye out for danger spots, particularly where they have to cross the road. Get them to use pedestrian crossings and talk about where cars might come from - perhaps around a corner or from a driveway. If they are to take a bus, show them where they will get off the bus and where they should then go. The road outside a school is always busy when the school day begins and ends. Parents should:

  • Always set a good road safety example with your children when crossing the road - it will help to ensure their safety when you aren't there.
  • Walk to the school gate to drop off or collect your child - always hold on to little hands.
  • Never call out from across the road - excited children forget to look out for traffic.
  • Have children use the car door on the footpath side - it keeps them away from the traffic.
  • Never stop on the yellow ‘No Stopping’ lines - they are there to ensure children can see and be seen.
  • Take extreme care when pulling into driveways close to the school - child pedestrians can be unpredictable and unaware of your presence.
  • On wet days, drive slowly and with patience. Obey all school parking restrictions - be prepared to walk further than usual.
  • Above all, choose road safety over convenience.

Our teenagers are likely to reflect our driving and road safety habits as they come to the point where they want to get their driving licence. An investment in a reputable driving school will be money well spent. Even if you think you know how to drive safely, you might not be the best person to teach your teenager. Make sure you talk to teenagers about road safety, particularly about the dangers of speed and drink-driving, and the fact that a licence means they must act responsibly not only for their own safety, but also for that of their friends and other road users. Ensure they observe the rules and responsibilities that go with being a learner and restricted driver.

Make it click!

Keep children safe in your car by ensuring they are securely strapped into approved child seats. Remember, it is your responsibility as the driver, to make sure children are buckled in properly. The law says if a child seat is available, it must be used. If there is no car seat but seat belts are available, then they must be used if they fit the child. If neither is available, then children must travel in the back seat.

Child restraint and medical professionals recommend that you keep your baby in a rear-facing restraint until as old as practicable, at least until they are 2 years of age. Some infant seats must also be secured to the car by a special tether strap and bolt. A child seat faces forward in the car and is designed for children who can hold their head up by themselves.

Plunket has seats to hire at reasonable prices. If you decide to buy seats, check to see if the seats have the Standards Approved label. Booster seats are designed to ‘boost’ your children so they can better fit a car seat belt. Ideally, a booster seat should be used in conjunction with a child harness.

The harness is designed for children from 4-8 years and is used in conjunction with a car lap seat belt. The harness is secured to the car by an anchor bolt. If your child has outgrown a booster seat and harness, they are ready for a car seat belt. The lap portion of the belt should be worn low, should fit snugly and should not cut across your child's face or neck. Child-proof locks will stop bored children trying to get out of the car.

Safety seats

A recent law change means all children aged up to 7 must be in an appropriate child restraint (such as a booster seat) in a vehicle, and those aged between 7 and 8 must use one if it’s available. The change aims to reduce the injury and fatality rate for young children by ensuring they’re not restrained in an adult seat belt. In any event, it’s recommended that kids use a child restraint or booster seat at least until they’re 148cm tall.

One of the leading causes of injury involves children as passengers in vehicles. About 15 children a year die and about 300 end up in hospital. Booster seats for preschool and school-aged kids have been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalisation and death by up to 59%.

Keep the kids safe by:

  • Always using the correct child restraint and booster seat for your child’s height and age.
  • Following the manufacturer's’ instructions for your child restraint.
  • Making sure your child restraint or booster seat correctly fits your vehicle.
  • Getting help installing your child restraint or booster. Contact an NZTA-certified child restraint technician for support and to get help to correctly install a child restraint.
  • Putting kids in the back seat where it’s safest.

Drink-driving

Drinking and driving is a dangerous mix. Because it’s difficult to know whether you might be under the legal blood/alcohol limit (especially as an inexperienced teenager), the simplest rule is not to drive if you are drinking. Alcohol slows your reactions, dulling your judgment and vision and impairing your ability to drive. If you are convicted of a drunk-driving charge, you can expect severe penalties - even imprisonment. It’s no fun, as a teenager, to have to go through a court appearance and to suffer the penalties.

Apart from losing your driver’s licence or having to pay a hefty fine, you could lose your job and have your social life ruined. Statistically, you are most at danger of being involved in a drink-driving crash if you are an 18 to 30-year-old male. Although comprising only 15% of all drivers, they make up 50% of all drunk drivers in crashes. Two-thirds of fatal crashes to which alcohol contributed occurred on open roads. Alcohol is the second most common reason for a fatal crash after speed.

What can we do as parents to keep our teenagers safe if they are drinking? We can offer to pick them up from parties, restaurants or pubs. We can spell out the advantages of having a designated driver, (someone who does not drink so they can drive the others home) when they go out with friends. More importantly, we should set an example by not driving after drinking.

Pedestrians

In general, pedestrian crossings are safe places to cross the road. However you should still observe the stop, look and listen rule, especially when with children. Children up to the age of 8 years are incapable of judging speed and distance with any certainty. It is important that the adult be a good role model by choosing not to cross roads from between parked cars, but to cross where there is clear vision of any oncoming traffic and that the pedestrian is clearly visible to drivers of the vehicles.

Children are not mini adults - traffic is an adult world! When walking with a small child always keep the child within arm’s length, preferably hold the child’s hand and have the child walk on the property side of the footpath.

  • Be alert to traffic moving in or out of driveways.
  • Do not encourage children to use driveways as play areas - the road is not a playground.
  • Be aware at all times the need to stop, look and listen when crossing roads. Even at controlled stops.
  • Check that the road is clear before pushing baby’s pram onto it.
  • Create safe play areas away from traffic for your children.
  • Always supervise young children closely in traffic situations e.g. car parking areas at malls, supermarkets and parks.
  • Refrain from calling to your child from across the road.
  • Always place children in the car before loading goods.

Children are unreliable around traffic - supervision is essential.

Cyclists

Cycling is a fun and healthy activity. However, cycle injuries are painful and annually more than 600 cyclists are seriously injured, with more than 10 fatalities. It is not recommended that children under the age of 10 ride a bicycle on the road unless accompanied by an adult.

  • Make sure the helmet your child wears is safety approved.
  • Wearing a helmet when on a bicycle is required by law.
  • Your helmet should be fitted properly - snug as possible with minimum padding.
  • The straps should be securely fastened at all times.
  • Choose a bright coloured helmet so that you are clearly visible.
  • Always wear shoes when riding a bicycle and brightly coloured clothing - to be SAFE you have to be SEEN.
  • Check your child’s bicycle for wear, rust and loose connections on a regular basis.
  • Regularly check brake pads.
  • If your child carries parcels on their bicycle, make sure you have a proper carrier or basket fitted to the bicycle - it is not safe to ride a bicycle with parcels on the handlebars.
  • When possible, cycle with your child to check that they observe road safety practices on the road.
  • Help your child to be a safe cyclist by teaching them to ride and ensuring they are comfortable before they ride in traffic.
  • Your child should be able to: turn, stop, keep their balance at low speeds and be able to look behind while controlling the bicycle.
  • Learning the rules of the road are vital before your child rides on the road with a competent cyclist.
  • It is not advisable for children to be riding bicycles at night.
  • A bicycle should be fitted with a white front light, a rear red light, an approved red rear reflector and amber pedal reflectors before being used after dark.
  • Road safety equipment suggested are: elbow pads, reflector waist belt, gloves, jeans and enclosed footwear.

Driving

Excess speed on our roads is the single largest road safety issue. Some facts:

  • The faster the speed, the more fatal the crashes and the more serious the injuries.
  • A car travelling at more than 70km/hour hits a pedestrian full-on, fatality is almost certain.
  • A car travelling at more than 70km/hour hits a pedestrian in passing, loss of a limb is very likely.
  • A car travelling at under 50km/hour and hits a pedestrian, it is very likely a serious injury will result.
  • Any adult pedestrian hit below the waist will be catapulted over the car bonnet into the windscreen.
  • Above the waist will result in a run over.
  • Any child hit by a vehicle travelling at speed will result in head injuries and almost certain death.

Speed is as dangerous as drink-driving. If you are driving fast, you travel a lot further before you react to apply the brakes. Other people’s lives are in your hands when you are the driver of a vehicle. As the driver, you have responsibilities, some of these include:

  • Making sure that everyone under 15 years of age is wearing a safety belt or sitting in an approved child restraint.
  • Children under 5 years must by law be properly restrained in an approved child restraint.
  • Children 5 to 7 years must use an appropriate child restraint and it is advisable for children to sit in the back seat.
  • Children 8 to 14 years must use a safety belt.
  • Passengers over 14 years must wear a safety belt if there is one available.
  • If you, the driver, don’t wear a safety belt or allow your passengers under 15 years of age to travel unrestrained, you can be fined $150 for each person unrestrained - passengers over 15 years of age are responsible for their own fines.
  • Make sure you let children out of the car on the footpath side.
  • If you are picking children up from school or a bus stop, wait on the same side of the road.
  • Be watchful for young children or senior citizens waiting to cross the road - young children are unpredictable and many of the elderly are nervous of traffic - always allow time for both to cross to a safe zone before proceeding.
  • Be aware that at any time, a small child or an animal could enter the road - drive with care and consideration of others.
  • Never use hand-held mobile phones while driving - should your phone ring, pull to the side of the road and stop before answering.
  • Regular maintenance of your vehicle will ensure not only a carefree motoring holiday, but also your safety. Do not put off replacing worn tyres or brake pads - your life could depend on these.
  • Drink-driving isn't an option - you do not have the right to risk anyone else’s safety.
  • Never place children or baby seats in the front seat of a car fitted with airbags.

Small wheels

Scooters, skateboards and rollerblades are a fun way to enjoy being mobile. However, doctors warn that serious injuries may result if road safety precautions are not taken. Even with protective gear and parent supervision, children can still suffer serious injury. Reasons outlined for scooter incidents were: riding too fast, hitting an object on the footpath and the lack of an adequate braking system. Note: it is not advisable for children under the age of 6 years to use these small wheels. Some points to be aware of:

  • A well fitted helmet and wrist guards should be worn when riding on small wheels.
  • Before purchasing small wheels, decide on a safe flat area where this gift can be used.
  • Daily check the bolts are tight.
  • Have awareness of pedestrian rights to a footpath.
  • Vehicles have road rights.
  • Uneven ground and small wheels = increased risk of injury.
  • Check out road rules and bylaws regarding the use of scooters and skateboards. Note: more than two-thirds of scooter injuries would have been lessened if road safety gear had been worn.
  • Always wear good footwear when riding small wheels.
  • Be alert when approaching corners (there might be someone approaching).
  • Avoid night riding.
  • 49% of injuries are to face and head.
  • Rollerblading and skateboard injuries are mostly caused by running into vehicles and pedestrians.

Make sure rollerblades are fitted properly. Too big and they cannot be controlled properly.

  • Make sure children learn to become competent riders in a safe, supervised situation.
  • Never hitch a ride behind a moving vehicle.
  • Complicated tricks on small wheels require careful practice in a specially designed area. Scooters are not designed for use in skateboard bowls or to be jumped from one level to another.

Walking school bus

A great innovation that is gaining support throughout the country is what’s known as “walking school buses”, initiated in New Zealand by the organisation Safekids NZ.

It’s essentially a group of parents who walk with up to eight primary school children to ensure they get safely to and from school. The kids are dropped off and picked up at stops on a designated route by their parents. The route is usually about a kilometre long and is assessed for suitability by a traffic engineer. Safekids says the key benefits of the walking school buses are:

  • Reducing the known risk factors for child pedestrian injury.
  • Reducing car congestion around schools (an average of 21 fewer cars travelling to school per route).
  • Greater awareness by everyone in the community on the role they play in child pedestrian safety.

Road safety includes driveways

New Zealand is somewhat unique in having long driveways on properties, especially in the smaller rural towns. This is because the “quarter-acre section” traditionally had the garage at the back of the section. The danger of the long driveway is the distance cars often have to travel in reverse, which limits drivers’ ability to see small children. Vision from a driver’s seat can be restricted for up to 10 metres from the back of the car.

Every two weeks a child is hospitalised with serious injuries received from a vehicle driving on a private driveway in New Zealand. Another five kids are killed annually, on average. Most injuries are to toddlers about two years old and are often severe. The driver is usually a close family member, resulting in devastating effects on families.

The Safekids campaign has raised awareness throughout the country of how to be more "road safety" conscious on driveways. The message is that you should know where the kids are before you get in the car because if an accident happens, there’s no going back.

  • Check, supervise and separate
  • Check for children before driving off.
  • Supervise children around vehicles – always.

Separate play areas from driveways.

Also have someone watch around your vehicle as you leave to ensure no kids are nearby, and get visitors to park on the road.