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Do More Liquor Stores Mean More Violence?

Is there really a correlation between the number of liquor stores in a given area and the number of incidents of violent crime? A new study runs the numbers to find out.

The answer according to a new study is yes. Using Cleveland as its model, a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on Feb. 21 confirmed a strong correlation between the number of liquor stores in a given area and the number of violent crime incidents.

Professors William Pridemore and Tony Grubesic from the departments of criminal justice and geography at Indiana University found that while bars and restaurants that served alcohol had higher rates of violence than other types of establishments, the correlation between alcohol and violence was particularly highest among carry-out liquor store type businesses.

The study’s results showed that with the opening of every new liquor store per square mile of city block, there were 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 with the opening of each new restaurant per square mile, and 1.35 more simple assaults per square mile by opening one bar.

The study’s authors are not positive that liquor caused the violence, but they tried to account for other factors such as age, race, and poverty level in the area. As a result, the study is evidence that city planners should limit the number of liquor stores in a given area to help curb violent crime rates.

We could expect about one-quarter fewer simple assaults and nearly one-third fewer aggravated assaults in our sample of Cincinnati block groups were alcohol outlets removed entirely, Grubesic noted.

As to why liquor stores were more highly correlated with violence than restaurants and bars, the professors could only speculate as to the reason, suggesting that restaurants offered more “structured control” on customer behavior than a carry out liquor store.