The percentage of Hawke's Bay adults who feel unsafe in the region is by far the highest of any region in New Zealand, despite the fact that crime rates are decreasing.
According to a Ministry of Justice survey, when asked on a scale of how safe they felt, more than a third of Hawke's Bay adults (38 per cent) answered between zero and seven out of 10 – by far the highest percentage nationwide.
The New Zealand Crime and Victims Survey, which provides statistics from October 2019 to November 2020, found that 28 per cent of Hawke's Bay adults feel "eight out of 10" safe, 16 per cent feel "nine out of 10" safe and 18 feel "10 out of 10" safe.
The other lowest performing regions were Auckland and Manawatu-Wanganui.
Despite the safety concerns, the number of offences per 100 households in Hawke's Bay dropped from 58.5 in Cycle 1 (March to September 2018) to 29.3 in Cycle 2 (October 2018 to September 2019) to 25.8 in Cycle 3 (October 2019 to November 2020).
Barry Leadbeater, who owns furniture and crafts store Barron Imports, has not noticed a decrease in crime.
He says he now fears for his safety after six burglaries in the past 12 months.
The Hastings business owner says break-ins are getting more violent, with perpetrators often carrying weapons.
"At the age of 72, you can't defend yourself like you used to be able to," he said. "You can't even run away like you used to.
"I feel uneasy. I worry that we will go to investigate and the person will get aggressive and I'll get attacked."
The data revealed that almost a quarter (22 per cent) of households in Hawke's Bay experienced an offence between October 2019 and November 2020.
Natiownide, 280,000 adults were the victim of a violent crime in Cycle 3.
Napier MP Stuart Nash said a recent international gang bust, which arrested more than 800 people worldwide, including 35 Kiwis, should highlight the police's current efforts.
He said an "overexposure" to high-profile crimes in the media may lead to a tainted view of the region.
"It may create an impression that there is more crime going on that there actually is.
"I cannot think of a time, day or night, week or weekend, where I have been in the centre of Napier or in the suburbs and not felt safe.
"I'm not saying there aren't times where group of youths aren't intimidating or when people see gang members – I understand that is – but personally, I have never felt unsafe."
Tukituki MP Anna Lorck said she feels safe in Hawke's Bay, and it was a "great place to raise a family".
Leader of the opposition Judith Collins said Hawke's Bay has experienced a "rapid proliferation of gang members".
"Kiwis are reporting feeling less safe while Government ministers are visiting gang pads and hosting gang members at the beehive," she said. "New Zealand cannot afford the Government's weakness on law and order."
The survey revealed that the percentage of Hawke's Bay households victimised has dropped from 28.1 per cent in Cycle 1 to 19.8 per cent and 18.9 per cent respectively in Cycle 2 and Cycle 3.
Adults in Hawke's Bay are also less likely to experience fraud and cybercrime (6 per cent) compared to the New Zealand average (8 per cent).
Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst highlighted Hastings' CCTV network of 250 camera feeds in 75 locations as a fundamental way of changing resident's safety concerns.
"I'm encouraged the number of household offences has decreased significantly year-on-year, but underlying these concerns are the issues of homelessness and unemployment," she said.
Hazlehurst also cited City Assist, Safer Hastings, Hauarutia o Heretaunga, Kaitiaki and night-time security contractors as ways the council helps towards the safety of the region.
Napier mayor Kirsten Wise also emphasised the approved investment to update the council CCTV network last year.
"While crime rates are a matter for the police, as a council, we're working on initiatives which could make a difference to how people feel, at least in Napier," she said.
Nash, a former police minister, said although he believes Hawke's Bay is safe, it's vital all crime is reported.
"The way we can get the resources into areas that are needed is if police know what is going on," he said.
Nationwide, nearly a third of all adults were victims of crime last year – but only a quarter of all crimes were reported to the police.
Hawke's Bay Area Commander Inspector Lincoln Sycamore said the fact that according to the survey fewer household offences are reported in Hawke's Bay was on the face of it, a positive.
"We acknowledge that there have been some high profile incidents in the community recently that have no doubt contributed to some people feeling concerned and unsafe.
"Police are working hard in this space with our community and Government partners, and is not something we can solve overnight.
"We also can't do it alone - police need the help of everyone in Hawke's Bay to look out for each other and report any matters of concern to us."
Sycamore said a lot of police work focuses on helping achieve better outcomes for people so they don't fall into situations where they are committing offences.
This, in turn, reduces the number of people in our communities who find themselves victims of crime.