The goal of the Queensland government’s new Community Safety Plan is to make Queensland a safer place by reducing crime, particularly violent crime. A key plank of the plan is to expand police use of metal detector wands, even though there is no evidence that wands help reduce violent crime.

The plan commits to tripling the number of wands for police, and an increase in places where they can be used. Currently this is limited to nightclub zones and public transport, but the plan will see them also deployed in shopping centres, retail outlets, sport and entertainment venues, and licenced premises throughout the state. Police will be able to stop anyone in those places without needing to give a reason, use the wand and if it activates, search the person and their belongings. These searches take place in public.

However, there is no evidence that wanding reduces violent crime.

“Wanding did not reduce the use of weapons to commit crimes, and it did not deter people from carrying weapons, even when they knew there was a risk of being wanded.”
Gold Coast Wanding Trial

Our evaluation of the trial of wands on the Gold Coast showed they can increase detection of metal weapons, leading to increases in weapon-carrying charges. But there was no evidence that this in turn led to reduced violent crimes using knives.

One reason for this is that confiscated knives are easily replaced by new ones or by other weapons. Wanding did not reduce the use of weapons to commit crimes, and it did not deter people from carrying weapons, even when they knew there was a risk of being wanded.

We also found that wanding came with side effects. Allowing police to stop people without reasonable suspicion undermines human rights. And because police can’t wand everyone, everywhere, all the time, they must choose who to target. Our review found evidence of the use of unfair stereotypes in those choices, and the 2022 independent Inquiry into QPS also reported widespread racist and sexist attitudes among police. This can lead to negative police interactions with vulnerable people, and reduced trust in, and cooperation with, police.

Our review also found evidence that because of the effective increase in search powers, wanding led to increases in drug detections and charges, mainly for minor possession offences. This runs contrary to the government’s own new approach to drug diversion, and can increase the risk of further criminal involvement, especially for young people.

While recent horrific knife crimes have understandably led to calls for action, deterring knife carrying and preventing violent crime takes more than additional police and new equipment.

Understanding who carries knives and why is important, so that prevention efforts can be targeted for maximum impact. There is a clear need for more Australian research on what works to prevent knife crime, especially among young people. Government also needs to focus on more investment to address the multiple disadvantages faced by some young people that can lead to offending. This evidence is crucial to approaches that actually work to reduce violence and offending.

It is also important to consider that the government’s own statistics  show that crime rates across the state continue to fall, as recently acknowledged by the Premier and QPS, with the exception of domestic, family and sexual violence offences. Police resources should be directed at better responses to the urgent problems of family violence, and to addressing the systemic cultural problems among police raised by the recent Independent Inquiry.


Janet Ransley is a Professor in the Griffith Criminology Institute (which she led from 2018-August 2023) and School of Criminology and Criminal Justice (which she led from 2011-2015). Prior to joining Griffith as a Lecturer in 1999, she held senior policy positions with the Queensland Legislative Assembly and for the Criminal Justice Commission (now the Crime and Corruption Commission), and worked as a solicitor.

Nadine M. Connell is an Associate Professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Her research focuses on juvenile delinquency, specifically in the domain of school safety. Her work examines the aetiology of school based violent victimization and perpetration as well as more extreme forms of youth violence, including drug use, weapon carrying, school shootings, and targeted violence. She works with schools and communities to implement and evaluate prevention and intervention strategies, with a particular interest in evidence based strategies for school safety.

Dr Margo van Felius is a Lecturer in Financial Crime in the Academy of Excellence in Financial Crime Investigation and the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice (CCJ). She is a former Queensland Police Service Detective (working in child protection, organised crime, and economic crime) who completed her PhD in CCJ, receiving an Award of Excellence for her thesis: Improving the uptake of multi-agency and third-party policing partnerships: facilitators, barriers and the role of legal levers. Margo has a special interest in organised crime, transnational crime convergence, wildlife crime and money flows.

Shannon Walding is a Research Associate in the Griffith Criminology Institute and an HDR candidate in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice (CCJ) at Griffith University.