The survey instrument was used in the Social Cohesion and Pro-Social Responses to Perceptions of Crime research and is available for local councils and others to use to measure perceptions of crime and safety.

The whole survey takes approximately 25 minutes to complete therefore will not be suitable to use in its entirety for many situations.

The following principles and tips have been developed with the lead researchers to assist with flexible but robust use of the survey tool.


  • There are methodological factors to consider when deciding who will be in a sample: How will the sample be selected? What is the optimal sample size to minimize sampling error? How can response rates be maximized?
  • Your sample size will depend upon the total population of the area you wish to survey. A handy calculator to help determine sample size can be found on this website (External link). Keep in mind your sample size will ultimately be dependent on what you are trying to measure and how hard it is to ‘find’ in the population.
  • To be able to draw meaningful conclusions from your data, your survey will also have to be randomised. Online surveys that are open to anyone will often attract responses from people motivated to respond because they have a particular gripe or interest in the subject. An easy way of randomising your sample in Excel can be found on this website (External link)You may also choose to randomly select valid residential addresses from the suburb(s) you wish to study.


  • The research used face to face surveying at randomly generated addresses within the target neighbourhood. Telephone surveying is becoming less useful now as many people will not answer their phones to an unknown number. Social research specialist firms can assist you with finding a valid surveying methodology.
  • If you are not using the research tool in its entirety, make sure each question used adds value and drives responses that relate directly to your research goals. Your survey questionnaire is being used to obtain important insights, so every question should play a direct role in hitting that target. For example, if your participant’s precise age or suburb is relevant to your results, go ahead and ask. If not, save yourself and your respondents some time and skip it.
  • Consider the blocks of questions to be included (or excluded) in your survey, remembering the objectives of your research. You may also consider adapting the prosocial action options to meet your local circumstances.
  • Securing a high response rate to a survey can be hard to control, particularly when it is carried out by post, face-to-face or over the telephone. Careful sample management and control to ensure that a large proportion of sample members provide the information requested is essential to good survey practice. Ensure you build in an appropriate data collection time span for your research, noting you may need buffers if response rates are low.
  • To encourage completion and boost your response rates, attention should be paid to the visual formatting of self-administered questionnaires, whether that be the layout of a mail survey or a particular eye towards respondents completing a web survey on a mobile device. Reducing the burden on respondents by creating a positive user experience can reduce measurement error and break offs.

Local councils who are interested in using the survey tool are encouraged to contact us to discuss the methodology that will best suit their needs. You can contact the unit by emailing (External link)

Lee, Murray; Wickes, Rebecca and Jackson, Jonathan
The University of Sydney
Date of Publication