Generally speaking, surveys are used to obtain three main types of information:
- information on the characteristics of individuals, including their personal characteristics (age, marital status, level of education, etc.), behaviour (amount of time spent doing certain activities, etc.) and living environment (workplace, housing, etc.);
- information on the opinions of individuals (how safe or unsafe they feel, what they think about certain facts, ideas, programs or events, etc.);
- information on their past personal experiences (victimization, etc.).
The data gathered during a survey can be grouped and analyzed to detect trends or associations, such as whether certain groups within a population (e.g. the members of a particular age group, men or women) or people in certain areas share a particular opinion to a greater extent than other groups or people do.
Surveys conducted as part of a safety diagnosis are aimed at painting a portrait of the crime and safety problems experienced or perceived by the population in a particular life setting. Their objective may be to develop a general portrait of safety in that setting or to study in greater depth issues or problems already identified in the setting by other data collection methods.
This guide is designed to assist local community stakeholders in planning and conducting surveys on personal safety in life settings. The portrait such surveys provide can be supplemented by information gathered with other methods, such as consultation of official crime statistics, direct observation of community safety, focus groups or semi-structured interviews with key informants.1 Ultimately, this information can be used to further document some of the safety issues covered by surveys, with a view to making safety diagnoses.