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 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. allawash

    Correlation does not imply causation. Maybe it's the other way around. If hoods have a higher demand for single serve drinks, then why wouldn't store owners allot more space to them? Simple supply and demand. Maybe consuming caviar causes you to be rich! Lets try it!!

    September 29, 2011 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  2. Magicace

    Does it really take a study to figure out that dissatisfied people often use "liquid courage" to go out and do stupid things?

    September 29, 2011 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
  3. Shane G

    Well golly, ironic that the placement of alcoholic beverage sales and the REMOVAL of cannabis sales INCREASES violence.

    Im preaching to the choir, or a brick wall for that matter.

    September 29, 2011 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
  4. kristin

    You try to make a case for outlawing my firewater there will for sure be an increase of homicides in upper-middle class white neighborhoods.

    September 29, 2011 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  5. DaveNYUSA

    Someone actually needed a STUDY to figure this shiit out?

    September 29, 2011 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  6. viki

    Did someone spend money on studies to verify that poverty and alcohol equals more violence? Throw in lousy educational opportunities. Wow. WHAT A SURPRISE!

    September 29, 2011 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  7. viki

    Lot's of people should spend money on studies to see if there is a connection between alcohol and domestic violence. I think there might be but I'm not totally sure until someone like Sociology professor Robert Parker, University of California, Riverside, finds out for me.

    September 29, 2011 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  8. Ggr

    No shiit? Would have figured that!

    September 29, 2011 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  9. Kate

    OMG, how much was spent on that.....stupid stupid stupid, CNN you should be ashamed for even reporting

    September 29, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Wicho

      so sad we didn't get to meet up! my mind was overtaken with my test all last week and i frogot to email you! next time for sure! and i'm so jealous you went to rigsbys .one of my all-time favorite restaurants in columbus. SO GOOD. funny thing is i ended up wandering around easton on saturday anyways, and i was down in the short north by rigsbys saturday night! maybe we saw each other and didn't even know it happy birthday!!!Lindsay @ The Lean Green Bean recently posted..

      March 14, 2012 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Peanut M&M

    The results of the University of Chicago study concluded that a high rate of homicide victims had alcohol in their systems. None of the three studies state that the perpetrators had alcohol in their systems, though the first two correlated the availability of alcohol with crime rates. It's possible that victims are more likely to be targeted or more likely to put themselves in dangerous situations after drinking.

    September 29, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Cindy Thompson

    I was just in Chicago and the closer you got to the "hood" the more liquor & convenience stores you see and other types of businesses disappear and gas prices rise drastically. It's not rocket science that the more alcohol involved the more violent behavior will occur.

    September 29, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  12. BMDpower

    Nothing new here. Humans been drinking for over 100 yrs
    . Hv the results chnaged ?

    September 29, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Tellatubby

    There's always going to be bad parts of America. You can't fix everything to be like your bogus utopia!

    September 29, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  14. WOT

    JOBS,JOBS, and more JOBS is what all cities need!!

    September 29, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Steve

    Wow – that's an 'amazing' finding – who would've guessed?? Wonder how much his 'Grant Money' was for this amazing study & conclusion, LOL

    September 29, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
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