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. Just say NOOOOOOOOOOOOO

    Thus is WHY no mind altering drugs should be legal in this country. People can't handle it.

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

      NOT true. Many folks can't, but many can. The trick is teaching those who can't, not to partake.

      September 28, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Life

      Mind altering is a rather extreme word for illegal drugs, as these substances alter your perception and not your mind or thought process or the world.

      Secondly, what about all of the "sober" people who can't handle life?

      Thirdly, you realize that nearly 75% of prescription pharmaceuticals are mind altering substances, many of which are acceptable to be prescribed to CHILDREN. Food and S3x are mind altering substances. Movies and Video Games are mind altering substances. Driving a car and amusement parks are mind altering substances.

      You = failing at life.

      September 28, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mizzou Sportswriting Promotion Association

      @Life. Drugs can alter your mind. Several of them shut down your dopamine receptors in your brain making it seem impossible to be happy once you're off of it. At first when you take the drug so much more dopamine is produced, making you really happy. So you chase that high and that feeling. But progressively less and less dopamine is produced. And when you're off the drug your receptors are shut down. It takes a while of being off the drug to get those back.

      Alcohol is even mind altering to a degree. The reason you get so dizzy and off balance is because it affects the cerebellum, which is the part of the brain that gives you (you guessed it!) balance. Although drugs will also change your perception of the world, they do take a toll on your mind. Supposedly when you're drunk you lose 10,000 brain cells, but I think my teacher was exaggerating to make people "afraid" of drinking in high school.

      But I agree that just because some people can't handle themselves under the influence doesn't mean they shouldn't. It just means they should be more educated about it.

      September 28, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • prayedUp

      this article isnt about sober people. i'm pretty sure drugs alter your mind a lot differently than food or a movie. no one sucked a kock to go to the movies

      September 28, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Life

      @Mizzou Sportswriting Promotion Association Thank you for you're grade school level scientific assessment of the effects of narcotics on the brain. Your concepts are somewhat correct but very very outdated.

      If drugs released dopamine, and continually doing drugs slows/shuts off the dopeamine product, then the user would not continue to recieve any of the euphoric effect because of the lack of dopamine. Which makes no sence as drugs consistently get the user high, their tolerance might grow, however they still receive a very similar effect. I do agree that drugs release more dopamine and MIGHT effect the natural cycle of your dopamine. However dopamine levels naturally cycle to begin with, some people have problems with dopamine, then they get prescribed antidepressants, which wait, are "mind-altering" drugs too!

      As far as Alcohol altering your mind and balance... balance is preception, therefor it alters your perception. Your preception and/or brain return to normal when you come down.

      The loosing brain cell from drugs/alcohol arguement has been refuted several years ago. Its a concept that came from very bad scientific research. Of course scientific research in the medical field hasnt come very far since then.

      In my first hand experience I find that most of the time violence occurs from a lack of emotional intelligence/control. Drugs and alcohol definetly make it harder for you to conciously choose to control your actions, therefor allowing you to actions to more closely relate to your feelings.

      Drugs and alcohol are inanimate objects and are not responsible for and can not control the actions of human beings.

      September 28, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Life

      @Mizzou Sportswriting Promotion Association Thank you for you're grade school level scientific assessment of the effects of narcotics on the brain. Your concepts are somewhat correct but very very outdated.

      If drugs released dopamine, and continually doing drugs slows/shuts off the dopeamine product, then the user would not continue to recieve any of the euphoric effect because of the lack of dopamine. Which makes no sence as drugs consistently get the user high, their tolerance might grow, however they still receive a very similar effect. I do agree that drugs release more dopamine and MIGHT effect the natural cycle of your dopamine. However dopamine levels naturally cycle to begin with, some people have problems with dopamine, then they get prescribed antidepressants, which wait, are "mind-altering" drugs too!

      As far as Alcohol altering your mind and balance... balance is preception, therefor it alters your perception. Your preception and/or brain return to normal when you come down.

      The loosing brain cell from drugs/alcohol arguement has been refuted several years ago. Its a concept that came from very bad scientific research. Of course scientific research in the medical field hasnt come very far since then.

      In my first hand experience I find that most of the time violence occurs from a lack of emotional intelligence/control. Drugs and alcohol definetly make it harder for you to conciously choose to control your actions, therefor allowing you to actions to more closely relate to your feelings.

      Drugs and alcohol are inanimate objects and are not responsible for and can not control the actions/choices of human beings.

      September 28, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
  2. GnatB

    "Again, that is the victims, not the perpetrators"

    Or in otherwords, even gang murders are "smart" enough to realize the best time to take out thier intended victims are when they are totally drunk?

    Well, duh.

    September 28, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carl

      Unlikely. People don't think very hard before committing murder.

      More likely is the probability that victims who are drinking are around criminals who are also drinking.

      September 28, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  3. *bob williams

    Sounds about right to me. Did anyone ever hear the terms bar fight or barroom brawl

    September 28, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  4. swanngrinder

    Really mind bending stuff here

    September 28, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Squeezebox

    We tried to fix that problem in the 1920's by outlawing alcohol. It didn't work. We've tried gun control. It doesn't work. If people want something badly enough, they'll stop at nothing to get it. The sad part is that it's the innocent people who get killed.

    September 28, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bug

    The density of pay-day loans shops are higher in these areas too. Perhaps that is the problem. Or maybe you can compare the cost of housing and plot it against violent crimes. I would hope there is more to this story than the causality.

    September 28, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Damon

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

    And since we don't sell drugs in stores, we don't know if it is the selling or the using causing the violence. We can be pretty sure that alcohol causes violence, but we can't say the same about illegal drugs in general.

    September 28, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Henny

    LOL... what a news flash this study is!

    September 28, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bob

    The bottom line Alcohol is a Nasty drug.. Do yourself, your family and neighbor a favor.. stay Sober!!! If you are stressed out, learn how to meditate!!

    September 28, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  10. QW

    I bet marijuana has the opposite effect

    September 28, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. me

    Really? The needed to do a study to figure this out? What a waste.

    September 28, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Nice Study

    Wasn't this subject studied about 60yrs ago, then again 50, then 40 and so on with the same results. Waste of grant money if you ask me. How about study why the poor drink, or why there is a liquor store on every corner instead of a Starbucks. Then come to a conclusion and fix it. That would be to much work I guess. Seems to me if people have nothing to lose, then what do they care about anything.

    September 28, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  13. JerkIt

    So drunk black people commit more crime? No way.

    September 28, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Abbie Hoffman

    Durn them revenuers, makin' them natives all stupid with their firewater...

    September 28, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  15. sam

    No Really ? You mean to tell me Nobody Knows that California itself Consumes 14 Billion alcohol bevereages per year and it was $ 17.8 Billion in health services in 2001,Now in the whole usa the costs are $ 280 Billion a year just for its USE,SO what do all the BRAINS DO about this ? BAN SMOKING..wowwwwwwwwww you talk about UPSIDE DOWN:
    THE COST OF ALCOHOL
    ABUSE IN CALIFORNIA: HIGHLIGHTS 1) The cost of alcohol abuse in California in 2001 totaled $17.8 billion for health service, substance abuse treatment/prevention, lost productivity from premature deaths, and justice system costs (See Appendix Table 11). 2) Nearly 84,000 hospital discharges resulted from alcohol abuse, including 11,388 discharges with alcohol dependence syndrome, 9,314 with alcoholic psychoses, and 8,115 with cirrhosis of the liver. Almost 16,000 Californians were hospitalized for injuries that resulted from alcohol use ( Hospitalization costs amounted to $1.3 billion

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