Thursday, October 13, 2011

Queensland Police crime figures flawed and unreliable, say criminologists

QUEENSLAND Police keep two sets of books on crime - only one of which they release to the public. The other they keep to themselves.

Queenslanders get district and regional figures, which criminologists say cannot be used to measure crime accurately because the reporting method is flawed and unreliable.

By contrast, residents in NSW can access crime statistics by suburb, collected by an independent body and published online.

Since 2006, the QPS has made 41 changes to police district boundaries, making "apples to apples" comparisons impossible.

In 2009 the Gold Coast police district shrank from 1140sq km to 374sq km after the QPS created a 3004sq km Coomera police district. Crimes figures for several Gold Coast crime categories declined as a result.

Police Minister Neil Roberts told The Courier-Mail that police had provided him with recent crime statistics on Gold Coast crime based on the old district boundaries but the QPS has declined to provide these to The Courier-Mail.

The minister's office has yet to respond to a request to supply this data.

Police also record "divisional" figures on a consistent basis but they are kept secret.

On the Gold Coast, divisional figures are collected for Coolangatta, Palm Beach, Broadbeach, Surfers Paradise, Southport, Runaway Bay, Mudgeeraba, Nerang, Coomera and Robina.

With the exception of Robina, boundaries for those areas had not changed during the past decade, a senior police source told The Courier-Mail.

The QPS said it could not release the divisional statistics because they had not been "verified" by their statistics unit. "We don't do anything further down than the districts," a spokeswoman said.

The QPS told The Courier-Mail it would have to make an application under Right To Information laws to see the divisional statistics, which also are routinely denied to academics.

"You have to go through a research committee and they are likely to refuse you," said leading criminologist Paul Wilson of Bond University, adding he knew of no researcher accessing the data.

Professor Wilson said of the police figures: "You can't get any consistent trends over time. They are quite inadequate."

A QPS spokeswoman said the geographic boundaries were "operational police boundaries and as such are amended over time to meet operational needs" such as when new housing estates were created.

LNP police spokesman John-Paul Langbroek said he had never been provided the divisional crime figures for the Gold Coast district he represents.


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