Studies cite link between booze sales, inner-city violence
Sociology professor Robert Parker says two University of California, Riverside studies link alcohol sales and violent crime.
September 28th, 2011
01:47 PM ET

Studies cite link between booze sales, inner-city violence

Two studies published this month suggest the availability of booze - and in one city, single servings of alcohol - is linked to violent crime rates.

University of California, Riverside researchers used federal crime data for offenders between the ages of 13 and 24, and then used census and economic data to determine the density of beer, wine and liquor stores in 91 major cities.

"Taking into account other factors known to contribute to youth homicide rates – such as poverty, drugs, availability of guns and gangs – the researchers found that higher densities of liquor stores, providing easy access to alcoholic beverages, contributed significantly to higher youth homicide rates," said a news release from the university.

The second study isn't so broad and doesn't deal solely with young people. It looked at San Bernardino, California, and "generally found higher rates of violent crime in neighborhoods around alcohol outlets that allot more than 10% of cooler space for single-serve containers."

Using census and business data combined with crime reports and an estimate of cooler space devoted to single-serving containers of alcohol (the latter being conducted by the county Department of Public Health), the researchers found that sales of individual servings of booze had a "modest" impact on violent crime.

"However, the researchers did find that as the percentage of cooler space devoted to single-serve containers increased, so did the crime rate," according to a news release.

The news release about both studies was forwarded to CNN.com Tuesday after a piece was published on the site about "violence interrupters" being employed in cities such as Chicago and Baltimore, which are among the 91 cities cited in the first UC-Riverside study.

A University of Chicago study published in 2009 offered some unsurprising findings about the victims and perpetrators of Chicago’s gun violence. They’re often gang-affiliated minorities from low-income families. What may be more surprising is that it cited alcohol - not substance - abuse, depression, anxiety and poor grades in school as other contributing factors.

The emphasis on alcohol over substance abuse is notable because so much violence is linked to the illegal drug trade.

But the study said "analysis of data on Chicago homicides from the Illinois Violent Death Reporting System found that only 3% of victims ages 10 to 24 tested positive for recent cocaine or opiate use. In contrast, 35% of homicide victims had alcohol in their blood at the time of death, often at levels above legal thresholds defined for alcohol intoxication."

Again, that is the victims, not the perpetrators. You can read the whole report here in PDF format.

The UC-Riverside studies appeared in Drug and Alcohol Review, a publication from the Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and Other Drugs.

One of the researchers, sociology professor Robert Parker, who co-directs the Presley Center for Crime and Justice Studies, said of the findings, "These results suggest that alcohol control can be an important tool in violence prevention."

Parker was more emphatic about the San Bernardino study. Acknowledging that the research had a limited scope, Parker said communities concerned about the impact of selling single servings of alcohol should take action.

"Community interests should dictate local policy, and the potential benefits of reduced violence outweigh any potential harm that the banning or limitation of such sales would create," he said.

What's your take? Is alcohol a devil water spurring our cities to violence? Is it not a factor? Or do you think it's one of many factors contributing to the bloodshed? Let us hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Filed under: California • Crime • Drugs • Illinois • Maryland • U.S.
soundoff (246 Responses)
  1. NH YANKEE

    So now we know that alcohol consumption is a factor in crime rates. What next? Will a new study show that driving 90mph through a school zone is a dangerous practice?

    September 29, 2011 at 6:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Duh

      Alcohol consumption related to violence wow who'da thunk it? Groundbreaking work Prof!

      September 29, 2011 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
  2. mike smith

    who in the hell funded these studies? common sense would give you the same conclusions! holy moly!

    September 29, 2011 at 7:14 am | Report abuse |
  3. Kate

    I would imagine that liquor sales are related to violence period – not just in inner cities.

    September 29, 2011 at 7:39 am | Report abuse |
  4. Steve

    Go back and watch "Boyz n the Hood" Listen to what Laurence Fishburne tells his sons about life in the hood. It's all been said before

    September 29, 2011 at 8:11 am | Report abuse |
  5. ryan

    Yeah

    September 29, 2011 at 8:12 am | Report abuse |
  6. Francis

    No kidding. Alcohol is a disinhibitor and a huge contributor to violence. (Alcohol is involved in something like half of all violent crimes.) It's too bad we don't have an alternative recreational intoxicant that DOESN'T promote violence. And while I'm wishing, wouldn't it be cool if this alternative were, unlike alcohol, non-toxic (zero overdose risk) and also not physically addictive?

    September 29, 2011 at 8:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Todd in DC

      You are describing marijuana, aren't you?

      September 29, 2011 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  7. dr who

    Nothing new......but the government says booze is not dangerous!!...LMFAO!!!!...it is legal....i don't understand..

    September 29, 2011 at 8:18 am | Report abuse |
  8. Johnny Hopkins

    Hmm... Maybe prohibition would be a good idea?

    September 29, 2011 at 8:57 am | Report abuse |
  9. Matthew

    Well, lets think... Area hits recession, crime goes up. Social downturn leads to increased need for coping through alcohol. Alcohol leads to impared judgement which fuels the cycle again.

    There, can I have the grant money now?

    September 29, 2011 at 8:58 am | Report abuse |
  10. Chris

    All this did was reaffirm that the crime rate is higher in the poor parts of a city. Ever been to a liquor store with a huge "single serving" section that wasn't in the ghetto. Poor people can't afford to buy a keg for the week so they spend their money one forty at a time. The store owners aren't stupid. I'm sure if they did a study about the conection between check cashing stores and pawn shops and violent crime they would have they exact same result. The crime rate will always be higher in these place than others simply because rich people don't have to brain somebody with tire iron to pay for their corvosier. This is ridiculous.

    September 29, 2011 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
    • DsOpinion

      Excellent insight, I was also going to suggest that it could be correlational rather than causative

      September 29, 2011 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
  11. crabman

    another slow news day -– anyone want a drink

    September 29, 2011 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  12. Really???

    Did they factor in the information that there are a lot of fatal shootings outside of social clubs that serve (wait for it, gasp) ALCOHOL. Actually violent crime highest between the hours of 10 pm & 3 am , especially drive by fatalities. I am surprised they seem to be focusing on small package stores as a source of violence rather than the cultural glorification of violence as empowerment. With research funds so limited in our economy can't we find better researchers without a social agenda to prove. I am sure the patrons of the bars are not buying single serve containers, but they show up in ERs on a regular basis.

    September 29, 2011 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  13. west

    Blame every problem on blacks, not the whites, not mexicans, not the Asian, just the blacks makes sense.

    September 29, 2011 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  14. matt

    Alcohol is legal and yet it has this effect.
    hmmmm i wonder what effect Marijuana has on people.... oh yeah, no one wants to kill anyone after they smoke up because pot doesnt do that to you. Yet the Government still jails people for using the calmer drug.... but they say its for OUR protection. home of the FREE, right? riiiiiiiight.....

    September 29, 2011 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
  15. Frank

    People of the United States of America,
    I am SHOCKED,SHOCKED to find out there is a link to Urban Youth Drinking and violence in city environments!Let's put warning labels on all Colt45 cans and Bottles etc.that drinking Alcohal can cause violent behavior.That's the Ticket!

    September 29, 2011 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
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