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. Pertnear

    Wow, violent behavior is linked to alcohol? Who wudda thunk it?

    September 28, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  2. serene01

    Well, it goes without saying that liquor will cause violence and so will drugs. However, it is only in the minority communities that there is one on every corner and if every other store in the strip mall is closed–the one that says "liquor" is not! It is up to the communities to say "enough" if the individuals are not smart enough to do it. You won't see a liquor store where the population is mostly white in NO community in any state. Where I live, the people who own the liquor stores are Ethiopians and Asians-licensed by the government to sell liquor in the minority communities-however, a hearing has to be held when they want to put one in a white area-and then all they let them have is a wine store! I don't drink or do drugs, and this is redundant information for a bunch of racist to get to spout out a bunch of crap.

    September 28, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mary

    Wow. What a brilliant concept. How many millions of taxpayer dollars were spent on this groundbreaking study? Gee.

    September 28, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  4. sam walton

    These article is a waste of time and it is sad to post more negative things over and over...

    September 28, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Babs

    And in other news, random intercourse leads to increased illegitimacy rates.

    September 28, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. angrynotmad7

    Can you not talk in a more educated speech? Booze............must be someone who has not attened college or graduated from an accredited university ......:(

    September 28, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  7. ahatfl

    By swapping liquor stores for McDonald's Restaurants you get the same results.

    September 28, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. karl

    Liquor stores pop up in areas where the product will sell. It's as simple as that. liquor stores do not create violence. Idiots drink in excess, live in poor areas, and already are the fighting type.

    September 28, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jason

    Isn't that Teen Wolf's dad?

    September 28, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  10. WOT

    Strong drank effect different people differently, it has nothing to do with race, creed, or color! We need the tax money, make legal everything that you people call morally wrong and we will be able to erase or national debts! Going to jail for getting caught doing wrong does not help with the taxes!

    September 28, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jt_flyer

    That's really interesting. My study shows that there's a link between Good Weed and inner-city harmony. My study also shows that Booze is also linked to multimillion dollar corporate profits.

    September 28, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. sillybean

    I've never been violent on alcohol and there have been times in my life (college) when I drank like a fish! So, I say AS USUAL that it's one of a number of contributing factors. Obviously it's more complicated than alcohol causes violence. I bet that group of ninnies over at MADD have this on their front page seeing as how they've been incrimentally inching towards prohibition...

    Can someone please pass the Ciroc? I'm going to toast to FREEDOM while we still have it.

    September 28, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Shocked

    Who would have thought. Add some drug abuse to the mix and here we have the problem.

    September 28, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ronaldbolton

    I remember several years back that Portland, OR had a problem with violent crime and identified large serving beer containers (among many other factors) available at downtown stores as a contributing factor. I believe they saw an improvement when they addressed the size of beer containers that could be sold in the stores.

    September 28, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  15. KAC

    The studies in this article only show a positive correlation between alcohol sales and violent crime, but nowhere do I see anything proving causation. Common mistake, but you would think that sociology professors and news reporters would understand the difference. Without proving that alcohol sales CAUSE violent crime, you cannot reasonably begin to make policy changes. Perhaps the real factor is even that crime is higher in urban areas, where there are higher numbers of EVERYTHING – liquor stores, grocery stores, gas stations, etc. Are you going to tell me that higher sales of apple juice in urban areas are correlated with higher rates of violent crime in urban areas and therefore we should ban sales of apple juice??

    September 28, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
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