Queensland Attorney General has reported that Queensland has serious problems with the quality of its crime data
"Queensland's crime statistics are 'questionable at best and unreliable at worst' due to an 'unacceptable' level of inaccurate and incomplete data" (QAO Report 14. 2016-17).
Accurate crime data is essential to successful CPTED. Crime data enables good decisions about how, why and where to apply limited CPTED resources.
This crime data problem in Queensland has serious implications for those undertaking CPTED projects and CPTED evaluations in Queensland as well as nationally.
The Auditor General's report identifies that Queensland's crime data and Criminal Justice System data are historically and currently deeply compromised. In general they are compromised in the direction of making the agencies involved appear better in terms of performance measures. The crime data problem occurs across the jurisdictions of police, prisons, other areas of the CJS and the Department of Public Prosecutions.
Along with under-reporting of crime, is under-reporting of imprisonment and CJS involvement. This may adversely affect Indigenous Justice policy and practices as Indigenous people are over-represented in the CJS.
The Auditor General suggests that these crime and data recording problems are unlikely to be resolved in the near-term future (see report below).
In addition, the historical crime data problems are unlikely to be resolved at all because of missing data, and policies of encouraging the withdrawal and removal of crime incident reports.
The above makes crime trend and imprisonment trend analysis in Queensland, and nationally, unreliable or impossible because the % scale of changes year on year is typically much smaller than the % errors in the data.
Auditor General Report on Queensland crime data problems
The Queensland Audit Office report (Criminal justice system—reliability and integration of data (Report 14: 2016–17)) is available at https://www.qao.qld.gov.au/sites/all/libraries/pdf.js/web/viewer.html?file=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.qao.qld.gov.au%2Fsites%2Fqao%2Ffiles%2Freports%2Fproposed_rtp-integration_and_reliability_final_0.pdf -
(It can be printed but unusually it is not possible to download and save the document!)
There is an overview of the report here and a video describing the report is below
The recent background picture is of the compromised crime data emerging in the failure of a large project ($62million of public funds so far) intended to integrate and make more accurate the crime data from multiple CJS sources.
The Auditors' report identifies that the ability of the project to achieve intended outcomes was compromised by crime data recording and editing practices and policies across police and other criminal justice agencies.
Implications for CPTED practitioners and Community Safety
The compromise of Queensland crime and CJS data leads to multiple problems in conventional CPTED practices for practitioners in Queensland:
- Queensland crime data is unreliable for trend analysis on CPTED sites
- Actual crime level analysis for CPTED sites will likely need to be supplemented by site visits (identifying crime attractors etc) and fear of crime surveys
- Geographical juxtaposition analysis will need to depend more on site visits than crime data about the surrounding environment
- CPTED analyses for Building Development Approvals will likely need to be supported more by local crime data acquisition, site visits/locality analyses, fear of crime surveys and other CPTED analyses with less emphasis on Police crime incident data
- There are adverse implications for the quality of ABS crime and CJS-related statistics for both Queensland and Australia nationally where they reference or have included Queensland data. CPTED practitioners will likely need to be aware of this when comparing State or LGA crime data with national trends.
In short, CPTED practitioners working on projects in Queensland (and throughout Australia) will need to be very cautious in their use of Queensland crime and criminal justice system data. In general they will need to be aware that the data are significantly and irregularly compromised year on year in ways biased to the advantage of the agencies involved in recording them.