Wellington is a beautiful city; despite all the wind and the rain, it’s a pretty amazing place to live most of the time, especially in the summer. So, you may not believe me when I highlight that there are close to 5,000 crimes committed in the central Wellington area on a weekly basis.
This statistic comes from the New Zealand Police’s ‘Victimisation Time and Place’ tool, which can be found through a simple Google search. After looking at the absurd amount of crimes that happen in the city, it got me thinking, what suburbs and areas in the city are considered the most dodgy and/or feared the most by students?
As an investigative journalist, obviously my first port of call was to reach out to my Instagram followers and ask the question, “What areas do you feel the most unsafe in?”
The story post garnered over 35 replies from different age demographics, but predominantly from females. The trifecta of suburbs most mentioned were Aro Valley, Newtown and the Courtenay Quarter of Te Aro.
Statistics from the New Zealand Police show the majority of crimes happen within the central city; the police segment the areas into ‘Area Units’ and the most problematic area ranges from Willis Street to Cambridge Terrace.
This area includes Manners Street, lower Cuba Street and also covers Courtenay Place. These areas are inherently troublesome due to the nightlife that surrounds them and predators as a result often see these areas as easy targets.
Victoria University student Missy Shepherd highlighted this area, saying, “I feel the most unsafe on Courtenay Place on the weekend when drunken, sleazy people tend to be about.”
These areas are often riddled with badly lit alleyways, roads and other access ways. Graduate student Tara Rose Burton said that she also often feels unsafe in these areas due to the dimly lit alleyways and shortcuts that the area retains.
The council have proposed many different ideas on how to solve crime in these areas, although they usually come back to the idea of closing clubs earlier. Wellington City Council’s community well-being spokesperson Fleur Fitzsimons supports this idea, but why not put more money into policing, CCTV and lighting problematic areas?
These problems don’t only exist for women, but also gay men and the rest of the LGBTQI+ community.
“Courtenay Place after 1AM is problematic for the queer community, I’ve seen far too many bullying episodes,” said local young professional Ethan Aupapa.
Even as a cis-white male, I often feel intimidated whilst walking down Courtenay Place. You often have to avoid shoulder barges from drunk men who’ve flooded out onto the streets in a toxic rage after their favourite sports team has lost, again. I don’t believe closing the clubs early is the answer for the city, but that’s another story.
Courtenay Place seems to earn the title of the scariest place in the city, but other central areas of the city are considered dodgy by locals too.
One of the main student areas in the city, Aro Valley, was also mentioned in my (again, highly investigative) Instagram poll. This past weekend at work on Aro Street, I saw two drunken men stand in the middle of the road talking shit to each other; a car approached but the men did not move. The car proceeded to hit one of the men, then push him along the concrete road until he managed to move out of the way.
I love Aro Valley, but it can sometimes be a scary place. The Victimisation Time and Place Tool records around 200 crimes a week occur in Aro Valley, which is a lot for such a small suburb.
The majority of people I have spoken to initially say their most feared place in the city is in or around Aro Park. This is due to how dark the areas surrounding Aro are - for example, since 2014 a walkway from Victoria University to upper Abel Smith street was dubbed, “Rape Alley” due to its dark and sketchy nature. Multiple women were assaulted on the walkway, which in 2018 was renamed “Kake Tonu Way”, meaning ever upwards in Te Reo. The walkway is more lit than it was in the past and CCTV was installed; the assaults have since seemed to stop.
Inherently Aro Valley at night has been subject to criticism, although it is a great, lively place. It is, though, the second most feared area in the central suburbs. Sorry Aro, you know I will always love you.
The final place worthy of discussion is of course, Newtown. The lower socioeconomic area is increasingly being gentrified with more upper class town housing to fit the growing hipster population that resides within the suburb. There are many reasons why Newtown is feared by Wellingtonians, but it could inherently be due to the systemic placement of social housing, halfway houses and more.
Massey student Nichola Scarlett said, “Someone has chased me down an alleyway, multiple times. It’s not fun,” also adding that Newtown is her most feared suburb.
Newtown thus comes in third for the most feared suburb in the city. It does have over 100 more crimes occur on a weekly basis than Aro Valley but its area is far larger and complex.
I believe that the reason crimes occur in these areas are down to the systemic issues at play. As previously mentioned, the city council needs to focus more on lighting problematic areas and installing CCTV in them, and more regular police patrols of these areas would also be beneficial to decreasing crime in the city.
Stay alert and avoid badly lit, problematic areas if need be. Remember, it is always better to take the long route and get home safely than to take the dark shortcut and not make it home at all.