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Liquor stores linked to crime? Study suggests fewer liquor stores equals less crime

Posted: 10:48 AM, Sep 26, 2018
Updated: 2018-09-27 13:42:15Z

A new study done by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health claims they found a way to reduce crime in Baltimore. 

The study found a connection between the number of liquor stores and violent crimes in the area. Researchers say these stores that sell wine, beer, or liquor for off-premise consumption have a stronger association with homicides, aggravated assaults, sexual assaults, and robbery, compared to places like bars and restaurants where the alcohol is consumed at that location. 

What is also important to note is that researchers noticed lower-income neighborhoods have higher access to the type of outlets that are associated with the most harm, liquor stores.

They say a 10 percent increase in liquor, beer, and wine stores is associated with a 4.2 percent increase in violent crime in the area. A 10 percent increase in those stores has a 37 percent greater association with crime in the area. 

“While previous research found a clear association between alcohol outlet density and violent crime, there was debate about whether on- or off-premise outlets are more closely linked to violent crime,” says Daniel Webster, ScD, MPH, Bloomberg Professor of American Health in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health Policy and Management. “We used advanced methods to measure access to alcohol outlets more precisely and found that outlets that allow for off-site drinking, such as liquor stores and taverns, had a greater association with violent crimes than outlets that permit only on-site drinking, such as bars and restaurants.”

The researchers made their conclusions by looking at access to 1,204 Baltimore liquor stores and then compared them to violent crimes in the area from 2012-2016, making sure to account for drug arrests, income, and poverty. 

There they found a connection between (1) On-premise outlets like bars and restaurants that only sell alcohol for on-site consumption, (2) Off-premise outlets like liquor stores that only sell alcohol for off-site consumption, and (3) Taverns that sell alcohol for both on- and off-site consumption.

The study suggests that liquor stores have more hurdles when it comes to effective management and their relationship with the customers. At liquor stores, there are barriers that prevent workers from talking and interacting with the customer, but at bars and restaurants, the employees are constantly talking with the customers. By interacting with the customers it potentially prevents offenders from buying alcohol when they are not legally allowed, and there is someone monitoring the people consuming alcohol. 

“A comprehensive approach to reducing violent crime in Baltimore must include policies that restrict or regulate alcohol outlets, particularly those that sell alcohol for off-site consumption,” says Webster. “Reducing the number of off-site alcohol outlets in Baltimore has the potential to lead to fewer homicides and aggravated assaults.” 

“Outlet Type, Access to Alcohol, and Violent Crime” was written by Pamela Trangenstein, PhD, MPH, Frank Curriero, PhD, Daniel Webster, ScD, MPH, Jacky Jennings, PhD, MPH, Carl Latkin, PhD, Raimee Eck, PhD, MPH, MPA and David Jernigan, PhD.