Using crime statistics and alcohol outlet licensing data from Cincinnati, Ohio, to examine the spatial relationship between alcohol outlet density and assault density, researchers found that off-premise outlets appeared to be responsible for about one in four simple assaults and one in three aggravated assaults.
Different suites of spatial regression models revealed that adding one off-premise alcohol sales site per square mile would create 2.3 more simple assaults and 0.6 more aggravated assaults per square mile. Increases in violence associated with restaurants and bars were smaller but still statistically significant, with 1.15 more simple assaults created when adding one restaurant per square mile, and 1.35 more simple assaults per square mile by adding one bar.
The study examined 302 geographic block groups that encompassed all of Cincinnati, with each block group containing about 1,000 residents. Block groups are subdivisions of census tracks and represent the smallest unit available for socioeconomic analysis using data from the Census Bureau.
Crime statistics from January through June 2008 found 2,298 simple assaults and another 479 serious assaults had occurred in the study area during that time. The location of each of these criminal events was geocoded to show the precise location where they occurred. The researchers, using data from the Ohio Division of Liquor Control for Hamilton County, Ohio, then used the same geocoding techniques to spatially aggregate the city's 683 unique alcohol sales outlets into those block groups. The arithmetic mean, or average, density of assaults was 69 per square mile, while the average density of alcohol outlets per square mile was 20.
The researchers pointed to possible implications from the research on both public policy and on future research within the field of criminology.
"We could expect a reduction of about one-quarter in simple assaults and nearly one-third in aggravated assaults in our sample of Cincinnati block groups were alcohol outlets removed entirely," noted Department of Geography professor Tony Grubesic. "These represent substantial reductions and clearly reveal the impact of alcohol outlet density on assault density in our sample."
Grubesic said explanations for crime ecological theories like collective efficacy, social disorganization and social cohesion rely on elements like poverty, ethnic heterogeneity, residential mobility, anonymity of community members and willingness to intervene on another's behalf, are difficult to remedy through public policy. That is not the case with alcohol outlet density, he said.
"Alcohol outlet density, on the other hand, is much more amenable to policy changes," Grubesic pointed out. "Unlike other negative neighborhood characteristics that often seem intractable, regulating the density of outlets, and to some extent their management, can be readily addressed with a mixture of policies by liquor licensing boards, the police and government agencies that regulate land use."
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