Citizen trust or distrust in different types of responders
Regarding trust, or distrust, in different authorities, the quantitative data revealed generally strong relationships between a perceived effectiveness and the felt trustworthiness of the respective authority, with citizens perceiving the effectiveness and trustworthiness of the fire brigades, Civil Protection and the medical emergency services as highest, and the effectiveness and trustworthiness of the local police and the media as lowest. Additionally, the qualitative data suggest that the participants’ strong trust in Civil Protection and the fire brigades was mostly related to personal experiences of the respective unit’s speed of response, perceiving a speedy intervention as a sign for professional qualification and preparedness. In this context, the “visibility” of some authorities and positive media coverage not only engendered trust but also instilled strong identification and national pride. On the other hand, distrust in the local police was often based on the perception that “policing” was more related to administration and regulation rather than helping the general public. However, the quantitative results contradicted any hypotheses that citizens may distrust, or trust, any authorities because they feel that they themselves are distrusted or trusted. As a form of self-help, some participants described how they had turned to virtual neighbourhood alert groups, and how these groups become increasingly intertwined due to people frequently moving houses but staying in touch with their previous community, developing thus effective alert networks.