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. Alyssa

    This study sounds like correlation to me, not causation. Yet they say 'contributed significantly'. I'd like to see the data.

    September 28, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
  2. JJ

    Are you kidding me. So how much money did we waste with this study? I could have did it for free with any street in Flint. Go ahead, just name the street and I will give you the data for free; morons.

    September 28, 2011 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom Mix

      you took the words right out of my mouth.

      my first response was "DUH"

      September 28, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Andreas Moser

    Does this explain the London riots? => http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/london-riots-august-2011/

    September 28, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mad Hatter

    @BimboTBC that's cause they have to drink to make them a 10.

    September 28, 2011 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Life

    You are a human being that possess free will. Drugs and Alcohol are inanimate objects and have no control over your actions or choices.

    September 28, 2011 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fr33th1nk3r

      ^^^^ MOST USELESS STATEMENT OF THE YEAR. Tell us about free will after putting down a fifth of Jack Daniels– you won't remember even excercising your free will the next day....

      September 28, 2011 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Green Cove Springs Chick

    I live in East Oakland, Ca back in the early 90's when I was in the Navy. I remember billboard after billboard of liquor advertisments and rows of rows of liquor stores on every block. I do believe it helps to fuel the violence.

    September 28, 2011 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. justathought

    Just came on and my sentiments matched the first posting..

    September 28, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Samus

    Along with stopping Liquor Stores from selling single-serve containers of alcohol, I'd say towns should consider putting regulations on the single-serving crack and heroin trades as well, like, no selling drugs at night!

    September 28, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
  9. banasy©

    @nick rymond:
    While it may be true that Muslim countries have few drunk driving incidents, the US has few suicide bomber incidents.

    September 28, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom Mix

      LOL!! right on.

      September 28, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
  10. nola70119

    I can see how there are more Liquor Stores in impoverished areas, but I believe that is because these areas do not have the same sort of finances, community activism, and political support that keep such stores out of other areas of the city. I would wager the standards of living are different enough to affect the populace. Provide the correlation between Liquor Store concentration and political/civic apathy and then we will get somewhere.

    September 28, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
  11. citydweller

    This study is utterly ridiculous. High alcohol consumption is at most a sign of social malaise, but it's not the actual cause of crimes. Inner cities have been the setting of the majority of crimes committed in the country for decades thanks to the idiocy of social policies and urban planners who thought everybody would live better off in secluded suburbs.

    And since inner cities is where drugs are sold and crimes are carried out basically because they're some kind of no man's land after sundown, liquor stores proliferate simply because there are more people trying to drink away their problems. Now, does someone really think shutting off liquor stores would turn inner cities into gardens of Eden? Please...

    September 28, 2011 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mina

      Posted on Some people, aullacty more and more, take care of themselves naturally, and by that I mean by watching what they eat and drink and by using more natural methods like herbs, adjustments, meditation, breathing and exercise. They usually eat less meat or no meat and no fried foods and definitely less processed foods. They also favor alternative therapy methods which unfortunately are usually not covered by our traditional insurance companies. Some people use energy medicine. All of these people are healthier and their costs for maintaining health are much less than the people who follow the mainstream diet of processed foods, sugar drink, allopathic drugs, expensive tests, surgery and eventually chemo and radiation.

      March 12, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. r

    Booze and sports. Lethal weapons.

    September 28, 2011 at 8:50 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Fr33th1nk3r

    DUH. Alcohol incites violence? Who would have guessed?

    September 28, 2011 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. krehator

    Study links poverty to inner-city violence and addiction.

    Focus on the source, not the symptoms.

    September 28, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. clearmind

    this is a joke right? how much $$$ was spent on this? and what genius approve the spending of said $$$. Unbelievable!

    September 28, 2011 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
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