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. TODAY

    My advice to author : Start drinking heavily cause your study sucks :))

    September 28, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bobo

    If you look hard enough you can link anything. How about neighborhoods with Pottery Barns in them have less violent crime than ones that don't. Single serving containers are mostly sold in poor areas. Poor areas are more likely to have violent crime. Wow, what a finding! Sounds like Professor Parker is more concern with keeping the grant money coming in.

    September 28, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Leafonthewind

      Point taken, but what about the blood alcohol content found by the Illinois Violent Death Reporting System? 3% testing positive for other substances, 35% for alcohol? Are you trying to deny that alcohol is a dangerous drug? Or just pointing out a possible disparity?

      September 28, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Peter

      Leafonthewind: Dangerous drug? Absolutely. To be used with caution and care? Absolutely. The cause of violent crime? No way. Treating it as the cause distracts society from the real cause of violence (what I think is more largely due to socio-economic disparities and low educational attainment).

      September 28, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. sparky45

    "higher densities of liquor stores, providing easy access to alcoholic beverages, contributed significantly to higher youth homicide rates"

    For some reason I doubt that he closed the liquor stores for a period of time to see if the homicide rates dropped before jumping to that conclusion. He should be smacked for making that assertion while claiming to be a professor and researcher.

    He could likely jump to the similar conclusion based on all kinds of data – property values, proximity to 5-star restaurants, or any number of things that are statistically different in neighborhoods with a hgh rate of youth homicides. What a sham.

    September 28, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Common Sense

      The conclusion of study is right. But study should have been done under a broader context, with the inclusion of affecting socio-economic conditions.

      September 28, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • sparky45

      @Common Sense – I fail to see how you can jump for colleration to causation in this case.

      His study can, at best, show that youth homicide rates are higher in areas with higher densities of liquor stores. It cannot show that they 'contributed significantly' to it.

      September 28, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Common Sense

    Acohol affects any activity that requires reasoning and motor skills. That goes beyond race, gender,geograhical location, or political party affiliation. The study was a waste of time in reporting the obvious. How about a study of the conditions that would lead up to the high number liquor stores in inner cities, and let the study be solution oriented.

    September 28, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Leafonthewind

      Too logical; it'll never happen.

      September 28, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • driranek

      Liquor stores are one of the few businesses a person could start that doesn't require much education or capital. This isn't the giant 'Likker R Us' corporation starting these stores – it's the local unemployed.

      September 28, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Cris

    Wow what a great find! NOT? Any one who is a minority or african american and live in an impoverished neighborhood can clearly see every street corner FILLED with liquor stores, not bars, or clubs, LIQUOR stores, even bodegas and corner stores that might sell some cheap liquor. Got a problem with it talk to your state about reducing the amount of liquors stores in your area, and althoug crime wont stop, it will surely diminish, but dont write about this as if it is something new, maybe to white people, but to people of minority base, WE BEEN KNEW OF THESE FACTS!

    September 28, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ann

    I do not think the study they did could be said to show causal effect. That doesn't mean they aren't related, but just saying that alcohol readily available doesn't automatically mean there aren't other factors at play in the community besides or in addition to the availability of alcohol.

    September 28, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • driranek

      Agreed – particularly since it would be tough to find ANY neighborhood outside of Utah that doesn't have alcohol reasonably available.

      September 28, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Bill

    Alcohol makes people more violent and agressive? Wow, I can't believe nobody ever solved that mystery before.

    September 28, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Tee

    They want to drink and be criminals. What are we to do?

    September 28, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  9. asdf

    Wow all one has to do is watch Bumfights the movie to realize this.

    September 28, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  10. sumday

    now do a study showing how many perps had pot in their system to how many perps had alcohol in their system and then answer me why we sell alcohol to anyone over 21 but lock up anyone who uses pot? Why is it ok for a person to possess and consume alcohol and we only judge them based on their actions while "drunk", but we call a person a criminal for merely possing, or consuming pot and don't even consider the fact that they harmed no one or didn't break 1 law while high- they are simply a criminal for possession/use yet a person who drinks is only a criminal if he breaks any law while drunk but not for being drunk.

    September 28, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Leafonthewind

      Great idea, sumday. When will you be publishing this study? In other words, take some action yourself. And if you are for decriminalization, which I assume you are, please stop labeling the stuff with negative words like pot, weed, and marijuana. If we could get everyone to call it cannabis, that would be a good start.

      September 28, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  11. driranek

    As they tell you in Intro to Statistics – 'correlation does not imply causation'. The conclusions here could be the opposite of reality – when you get a bunch of lowlife in one area, yea, liquor stores open to serve them.

    September 28, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  12. CM

    The question should be "Why do inner city neighborhoods have so many liquor stores?"

    September 28, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Leafonthewind

    Alcohol is a dangerous substance. I don't think we needed a study to tell us that. It has long been a known fact that there are more liquor stores per capita in poorer areas than there are grocery stores. Take poverty, depression, despair, and add cheap, easily available alcohol, you'll get increased violent crime. Duh. Someone got paid to study this?

    September 28, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  14. buddget

    nothing new studies show that %80 mol of the people taken to jail were drunk or high

    September 28, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. foreverwar

    I'm pretty sure if you take the liquor stores out of crappy drug/ crime infested neighborhoods, they will still be crappy drug/ crime infested nieghborhoods. Perhaps do a study about high unemployment, low wages and defunded schools affecting the crime rate.

    September 28, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
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