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Queensland police 'soliciting' victims to withdraw complaints in bid to cut crime rate, report finds

ABC News logo ABC News 26/04/2017 Mark Willacy and Alexandra Blucher

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Police are "soliciting" victims to withdraw complaints in an effort to keep a lid on rising crime rates, Queensland's auditor-general has found.

The auditor's report says pressure from the police hierarchy to cut crime rates has left the Queensland Police Service (QPS) "open to claims of manipulation".

The ABC revealed in January that two police crime managers on the Gold Coast had raised concerns legitimate crime reports were being labelled "unfounded" to keep offences off the books.

Their allegations were passed onto the Queensland auditor-general after their superiors failed to act on their complaints.

In a report about criminal justice data tabled in Parliament, the Audit Office said police crime statistics were "questionable at best and unreliable at worst, and should be treated with caution".

The report focused on the Gold Coast police district, finding officers there used various methods to try to get victims to withdraw their complaints.

The methods included "soliciting victims to withdraw complaints" and sending victims letters requiring them to respond within seven days.

If they failed to respond, police would "presume" they wanted the complaint withdrawn.

The complaints related to offences including assault, burglary, stealing and wilful damage.

"Our analysis of statewide crime statistics indicates that the inappropriate practices and attitudes identified on the Gold Coast regarding changes to crime data are unlikely to be isolated to that district," the report stated.

Members of the Queensland Police Service march during a capability demonstration at the Queensland Police Service Academy in Brisbane. © AAP Image/Dave Hunt Members of the Queensland Police Service march during a capability demonstration at the Queensland Police Service Academy in Brisbane. Queensland Police Minister Mark Ryan told the ABC inappropriate police conduct would be investigated.

"I would say to anyone who feels like they've been inappropriately contacted by police to let us know. There is a complaints process," he said. "We expect the highest standards, the very highest standards from our Queensland police.

"If there are shortcomings in those behaviours in respect of any aspect of their role, then those shortcomings will be investigated and we will hold those officers to the highest standards."

The latest QPS crime figures reveal the rates of assault, fraud, robbery and unlawful entry on the Gold Coast in 2016 rose from the year before.

Police detective turned criminologist Terry Goldsworthy believes the concerns raised by the auditor-general should be referred to the state's Crime and Corruption Commission.

"It's not just the fact it's sloppy bookkeeping. What's seen here suggests there's been deliberate manipulation. In other words, a process has been undertaken to mislead," he said.

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