Napier residents are feeling increasingly unsafe with about 55 per cent of people surveyed saying gang activity was their leading safety concern.
Between February and March this year, 597 people over the age of 18 were surveyed as part of the Napier City Council's community safety survey.
The survey found that while 45 per cent of residents said they felt safe, 44 per cent felt unsafe – a significant increase on the 17 per cent response to this question in the Social Monitor Survey from 2020.
While people felt safest during the daytime, people felt increasingly unsafe going out at night, dropping from 48 per cent feeling safe in 2020 to just 29 per cent this year.
Feelings of safety were lowest for using public transport, with only 33 per cent reporting feeling safe.
Younger residents, aged between 18-39, felt significantly less safe in Napier, at home and in their neighbourhood and younger residents were more likely to report fear of crime having a strong impact on their lives.
Nelson Park and Onekawa-Tamatea wards residents were significantly less likely to feel safe walking alone in their neighbourhood after dark.
A retail operator in the Marewa shopping centre on Kennedy Rd, who Hawke's Bay Today agreed not to name, said he would have thought more people felt unsafe.
"I definitely don't feel safe."
Just last week he'd had to call police to arrest a beggar making threatening remarks to a woman outside the store, he said.
He said these sorts of incidents were "very regular".
He said a community patrol vehicle parked in the area in recent days had seen "less nuisance" and staff "a lot happier".
"I feel heaps safer."
The leading safety concern related to gang activity, with respondents calling for more police and getting rid of gangs or banning gang patches, followed by putting in more CCTV and security cameras.
Council's chief executive Dr Steph Rotarangi said the community safety survey showed residents' concerns matched council's, and validated the work already underway to address these concerns.
"Concerns about safety have come through loud and clear in our survey and we need to act, along with working together with our partners to not only improve people's feelings of safety, but actual safety."
She backed collaborative projects that make the most of the city's resources and strengths.
Council currently invests $350,000 a year into community safety initiatives, working closely with police and other agencies.
This includes security patrols in Napier city and Marewa shopping centre, Napier Community Patrol 'meerkat car' patrols, Neighbourhood Support, and graffiti control.
The focus was on making sure public places are safe, Napier Mayor Kirsten Wise said.
While Napier MP Stuart Nash said he stood by comments that he didn't think Napier was unsafe, he acknowledged that people said they felt unsafe and that a "culture of fear" was unhealthy.
"For me to feel safe - as six foot 200 pound guy - is different from a young woman walking back from a restaurant at night.
"There are far too many people in our community who don't feel safe and I am concerned about that."
He recognised that many people found gangs intimidating, though it was rare for members of the public to be targeted by them.
"They wear patches and ride around in packs to be intimidating."
Nash said a more collaborative approach was needed and supported working with council and other agencies to find a solution.
"It's not a police problem. It's about the community coming together to come up with a solution."
Council is due to confirm next week at the adoption of the LTP that the development of a new City Ambassador programme for Napier will continue, in conjunction with a replacement of the existing CCTV network.
If approved, this programme would start on July 1, next year, with the CBD patrols to continue until then.