The Role of Alcohol in Crime, Research Paper Example
Words: 5748Research Paper
The use and misuse of alcohol presents a significant public health issue. There exists a marked positive correlation between alcohol and crime, especially violent crime, such as assault, rape, and murder. Moreover, the use of alcohol by victims of crime can be a moderating variable; examples of this phenomenon include the role of alcohol in crimes such as sexual assault on or near college campuses. This paper examines several of the correlations between alcohol and crime, including the connection between alcohol availability and crime, and the statistically significant relationship between alcohol and crimes of violence.
Humans have had a long relationship with alcohol, and this relationship is filled with associations between alcohol and negative behavior. The consumption and over-consumption of alcohol has long been linked to violence and crime; in contemporary times it has been the subject of much research and study intended to identify and examine the links between alcohol and crime, violence, and other negative behavior. As recently as the early 20th century alcohol manufacturing and consumption was illegal in the United Sates; the proponents of the ban on alcohol saw it as something that was quite literarily evil; its use was believed to lead to behavior that was not only criminal, but was downright immoral. Our current relationship with alcohol is fraught with complications; there are laws in place to restrict and limit its use, but drinking remains woven into the very fabric of contemporary culture. Societal views on alcohol have only come to recognize the dangers of drunk driving; concomitantly, however, binge-drinking among college-aged young adults is more popular than ever before. Researchers have long recognized a link between alcohol and crime, yet it remains difficult to identify just exactly how such links function and how alcohol contributes to or is connected with crime, especially violent crime. This paper will examine some of the significant issues related to the links between alcohol and crime.
Overview and Background: Alcohol and Crime
The temperance movement in the United States which resulted in the 18th Amendment to the Constitution banning the making or use of alcohol did not arise overnight; the ban on alcohol was years, even decades in the making. The results of the Amendment were clearly negative; not only did a significant number of the American people ignore or actively circumvent the ban on alcohol, but it gave rise to a black-market alcohol industry and gave organized crime a foothold in the United States (Room, 2005). It was clear that laws against the use of alcohol were, at best, ineffective; at worst they were downright dangerous. Humans have been drinking alcohol since before the dawn of recorded history, and there simply was no way to legislate alcohol out of existence. As long as alcohol was legally prohibited, those who wished to drink would simply find ways to do so illegally.
Illegal stills, smuggling from other countries, and stockpiled pre-Prohibition reserves all served as sources of illegal alcohol in early-20th-century America. Speakeasies and other illicit drinking establishments were established to provide for the need and desires of those who wanted a drink and the law enforcement industry that arose to combat the black-market-booze industry as fighting an uphill battle from the moment the 18trh Amendment was ratified. In the end, the sheer momentum of the unquenched American thirst won out, and the 18th Amendment was repealed in 1933; it remains the only Constitutional Amendment to ever be repealed. In the decades since the end of Prohibition an astonishing and complex array of laws have been implemented at the federal, state, and local levels that are intended to how, where, and by whom alcohol is manufactured and consumed.
As this legislative tangle of rules, guidelines, and laws related grows increasingly complex, so too does our understanding of and knowledge about alcohol. Researchers in medicine, psychology, and the social sciences have all considered alcohol from various perspectives, and have contributed to the extant body of information related to alcohol’s physiological mechanisms, its short- and long-term effects on health, and its role in addiction and other negative outcomes. Our understanding of how alcohol and crime are linked remains incomplete; what we do know comes from a confluence of input from these various academic and scientific realms. While it has been clearly established by innumerable studies that alcohol and crime –especially violent crime- are inextricably linked, the specific nature of these links is, despite the quantity and quality of available research, still rather poor.
What researchers from all, or at least most, relevant fields of inquiry have determined, is that alcohol does not of itself “cause” crime. The associations between alcohol and crime are just that; such associations are the quintessential example of the well-known phrase “correlation does not equal causation.” Put simply: millions, if not billions of people drink alcohol regularly and yet do not commit crimes. The percentage of those whose use of alcohol is linked to criminal behavior is relatively low; at the same time, the percentage of those whose criminal behavior is linked to alcohol is remarkably high. While alcohol is statistically linked to a variety of crimes, from robbery to assault to drinking-related –and therefore criminal- driving accidents, it is its association with violent crimes that is particularly notable.
The connections between alcohol and crime have been studied by everyone from biologists to psychologists to sociologists to anthropologists; not surprisingly, research studies conducted within the context of these various, and often oppositional disciplines have demonstrated biological, psychological, sociological, and cultural links between alcohol and crime. There are, for example, physiological differences among people which cause some to be more susceptible than others to the effects of alcohol. There are psychological implications and ramifications for those who over-consume alcohol, as well as for those who are affected by or victims of those who drink too much. The sociological context of various groups of people, such as college freshmen or Evangelical Christians or retired soldiers may all have a bearing on whether or how much members of such social groups drink alcohol. Finally, the overarching culture in the United States provides a framework wherein the use and overuse of alcohol is firmly ensconced.
With all of this in mind, it is easy to understand how and why the connection between alcohol and crime is complex, and why there are no easy answers to explain the nature of such links, much less how these links might be adjusted, disrupted, or eliminated for the purpose of reducing or eliminating alcohol-related crimes. It is not within the scope of this paper to offer any suggestions about how the rate of crimes that are linked to and with alcohol might be reduced; the scantest discussion about such a subject would fill a great many pages or entire books. Give the constraints both of length and depth, the following discussion will be primarily concerned with examining the links themselves for the purpose of identifying and, hopefully, better understanding them.
Alcohol: Physiological Effects and Their Relationship to Crime
As Shepherd (1994) states, “alcohol is often consumed by offenders, (but) there is surprisingly little evidence about its precise role;” at best, notes Shepherd, only a “close association” between alcohol and crime has been identified. It is not only those who consume alcohol who are more likely to be associated with crime. The statistics are both clear and jarring: nearly 80% of assault patients are intoxicated at the time they are injured (Shepherd). This number makes it clear that the association between alcohol and crime is more complex than merely drawing connections between those who consume alcohol and commit crimes; crime victims are also likely to have had too much to drink when they fall prey to violence. Similar statistics are seen when looking at violent criminal offenders, who are also likely by a wide margin to have consumed alcohol prior to offending. The aggregate results of a series of studies conducted in the 1980s found that more than 60% of both victim and perpetrator were likely to be intoxicated in cases of murder, and similar numbers are seen in studies related to other violent crimes such as assaults and rapes.
As noted earlier, the strong association between alcohol and crime cannot necessarily be viewed as a causal relationship; for every offender who consumes alcohol and commits a crime, there are countless numbers of people who drink alcohol but do not commit crimes. A significant body of research has been conducted which seeks to better understand both how alcohol is linked to crime as well as how its use is not linked to crime. It has been hypothesized that some people process alcohol at the physiological level in a manner which makes them more susceptible to its effects, as well as those for whom alcohol is more likely to precipitate violent behavior. In terms of the association between alcohol use and being criminally victimized, the tendency for alcohol use to lower inhibitions may prompt some who might otherwise avoid being victimized to engage in risky behavior that amplifies their exposure to potential danger or that otherwise facilitates such exposure.
The exact mechanisms by which alcohol functions in the human brain is still something of a mystery; while some of the chemistry involved has been identified, there remain a number of questions, particularly in terms of why alcohol may precipitate violent behavior in some but not in others. In the absence of a proven causal link between alcohol and violence a number of hypotheses have emerged; among them is the suggestion that there are certain personality types who exhibit a tendency towards a range of risky behavior, with excessive alcohol use and violence simply being two examples of such. Sociological explanations for the link between alcohol and violence are also common; among such explanations include the theory that certain social situations –such as alcohol-fueled fraternity parties- provide social mechanisms that serve to foment alcohol abuse, exacerbating violent tendencies among potential offenders and amplifying the falling away of normal social inhibitions. Such a sociological framework would, in short, bring out the worst in potential offenders while making potential victims less wary or careful about avoiding dangerous persons or circumstances.
One notable and common physiological effect of alcohol use is its role in the production of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is a neurotransmitter that is associated with both physical functions of the brain, such as the ability to maintain balance, and emotional functions such as the control or reduction of anxiety or fear. As GABA production ramps up with alcohol consumption, a drinker is likely to exhibit a diminished capacity to maintain balance and to experience a reduction in anxiety and a concomitant sense of well-being and lowering of inhibitions (Marteau, 2008). It is in the manner in which alcohol lowers inhibitions that research has found a nexus between alcohol and a range of behaviors, from a tendency towards violence to a tendency towards passivity, depending on the individual and the circumstances (Marteau). For the average person, in the absence of alcohol in the brain the levels of GABA and related neurotransmitters are present in amounts that provide limiting effects on behavior and inhibit tendencies towards aggression or other behavioral extremes. In higher concentrations, brain function becomes impaired to the point where individuals may black out or even become unconscious; as such individuals edge closer to these stages, behavioral excesses may pose risks for extreme behavior that places themselves or those around them at ever-greater risks.
GABA functions as an inhibitor or brake against other neurotransmitters; as such, it can inhibit both positive and negative behaviors (Marteau). This explains the sometimes-contradictory effects alcohol can have in individuals, and why it affects different people differently. For example, in small amounts in those with typical levels of GABA and other neurotransmitters, alcohol can provide a mild relaxing effect. For those who drink too much alcohol, however, the effects on GABA production can be magnified, leading to a loss of the kind of inhibiting self-control that helps to maintain socially-appropriate behavior. While an excess of GABA can produce a relaxing effect, its tendency to inhibit other neurotransmitters can also inhibit those neurotransmitters that keep people from reacting with anger or even violence to certain situations or circumstances. There are other ways in which consumption and over-consumption of alcohol can and does effect brain chemistry; the GABA-related functions provide one of the most common and well-understood examples.
The full range of ways in which alcohol affects brain chemistry and behavior is not completely understood; what is certain is that as alcohol consumption increases the cumulative changes in brain chemistry it can lead to a variety of changes in brain chemistry. While many researchers are quick to note that alcohol does not cause crime –for example, those who drink and drive still had to make the choice to drink before driving, and those who engage in violence when drinking also chose to drink- the correlation between alcohol and crime remains significant. Beyond the general effect of changes in neurotransmitter function, the use and overuse of alcohol has a specific correlation with violence; drinking to excess does not bring out violent behavior in everyone, but for those who are affected in such a manner the consumption of alcohol can be a trigger for violent behavior.
The Relationships Between Alcohol and Different Types of Crime
It is well-established that the physiological effects of alcohol are linked with a range of negative and sometimes criminal behavior. Beyond these physiological effects, there are a number of other factors that can affect how alcohol and crime are interrelated, just as there are a variety of crimes associated with alcohol use. While alcohol has a strong positive link to violent crime, it is also linked to other crimes; among these are crimes where the overconsumption of alcohol is itself a crime (such as in the context of driving under the influence of alcohol or the consumption of alcohol by minors), and crimes such as vandalism and burglary. For every link between alcohol and a specific type or category of crime there are a confluence of factors that combine in different ways to support such links. Crimes such as burglary or vandalism may be underpinned by the lowering of inhibitions associated with alcohol. Along with the physiological factors associated with alcohol, crime and alcohol may be linked through broad sociological factors, specific social settings or circumstances, and a range of other factors. Although the physiological, sociological, and cultural links between alcohol and crime are not fully understood, the statistical correlations between alcohol and crime –especially violent crime- are well-established.
Over time the statistical links between alcohol and crime have led to changes in how society perceives the consumption and over-consumption of alcohol. Over the last several decades there has been a marked difference in how societal perceptions of drinking and driving; organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) have promoted an increasing awareness of the dangers of driving while intoxicated. This shift in the awareness of such dangers has spurred the development of legislation intended to dissuade individuals from drinking and driving by making the penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol stricter (Room). Even in the absence of accidents or other negative outcomes, individuals who drive under the influence of alcohol are typically committing crimes just by getting behind the wheel of a car.
The social costs of driving under the influence of alcohol are significant both for those who drive and potentially for many others. The legal sanctions for drinking and driving are typically onerous, and can include large fines as well as jail time. The most notable social costs related to drinking and driving, however, involve the property damage, injuries, and deaths that result from drinking-related motor-vehicle accidents. The total costs to society in terms of driving under the influence of alcohol can be difficult to assess, as there are a staggering amount of factors to consider. These factors include, but are not limited to, “tangible medical, mental health, property loss, future earnings, public services, adjudication, and sanctioning costs, as well as the value of pain and suffering” (Miller et al, 2006) for victims of drunk drivers.
The 2006 study by Miller et al attempts to aggregate the total annual social costs of alcohol-related crimes; these figures include crimes such as driving under the influence, property crimes, and violent crimes associated with alcohol. At the time of publication, the researchers concluded that such costs exceed $200 billion a year arising from over 5 million violent crimes and approximately 8 million property crimes, with nearly half of that $200 billion figure resulting from violent crimes (Miller et al). Such figures serve to highlight the complex relationship society has with alcohol; despite these staggering numbers, and despite changes in how crimes such as drinking and driving are prosecuted, rates of alcohol consumption continue to remain fairly constant (Markowitz, 2005).
While alcohol is associated with a variety of different types of crime, it is the link between alcohol and violent crime that is particularly notable. A study conducted for the U.S. Department of Justice examines a number of statistical links between alcohol and violent crime, and notes a number of patterns related to these links. According to this study, incidents of alcohol-related violent crime are statistically likely to be associated with domestic violence. Roughly 50% of alcohol-related incidents of violence take place between people in intimate relationships, and 70% of alcohol-related incidents of violence take place in a home, apartment, or other residence (Greenfeld, 1998).
Alcohol and Violent Crime
As innumerable statistical studies have demonstrated, there is a significant link between alcohol and violent crime. Spurred by such overwhelming statistical evidence, researchers have attempted to discern if alcohol consumption has a causal link to violent crime, or if some other cause (or set of causes) may be found to explain such significant positive correlations. Brecklin and Ullman (2001) examine an aggregate of statistical evidence and laboratory research on the subject of the links between alcohol and violent crime in an effort to determine of a causal link can be proven; the results of this study –like many other similar studies- are mixed. According to Brecklin and Ullman, a number of studies conducted in the mid- to late-20th century demonstrate that alcohol seems to be linked to lowered inhibitions, which may in turn underpin aggressive behavior; at the same time, however, the researchers note that a direct causal link between the use of alcohol and an increase in aggressive tendencies is not borne out by such studies.
Brecklin and Ullman further note that the use of alcohol is often associated with “risk” and with “risky behaviors;” the two identify bars, parties, and other settings where alcohol is served as potentially risky. Such risky contexts, assert Brecklin and Ullman, are statistically correlated with sexual assault and “completed rape,” among other violent crimes. Addressing sexual assault and other sex-related violent crimes specifically, Brecklin and Ullman note a strong statistical link with such crimes and the use of alcohol both for offenders and for victims. In settings such as college campuses and off-campus college-student parties, a significant and consistent link was demonstrated between alcohol use and victimization; a similar, if notably lower, statistical link was shown between offenders and alcohol use.
Shepherd (1994) examines patterns of alcohol use and violent crimes, and affirms a strong positive link between alcohol use and violent behavior in young adult males. In his examination of the statistical evidence used to support his arguments, Shepherd is quick to note that such statistical evidence is insufficient to support a physiological link between alcohol and violence, and states the possibility that a variety of social and psychological factors may combine to support these statistical links. In settings where a majority of those present are young adult males, aggressive behaviors are statistically more likely to manifest than in settings where an equal (or approximately) equal number of males and females are present. In this context, Shepherd theorizes, the propensity for alcohol to lower inhibitions may simply aggravate or exaggerate tendencies towards aggressive behavior that are already present in individuals.
Shepherd also addresses the issue of “social control,” and examines statics related to socioeconomics and demographics to consider whether sociological explanations can be found for links between alcohol and violence. In socioeconomic and demographic settings where male children and adolescents are more likely to be raised without a father present in the household, a notable statistical bump can be seen in the attendant amount of violent crime and in the prevalence of alcohol use. In such settings, asserts Shepherd, the absence of a father in the household may mean that male children and adolescents were not taught the “social control” necessary for responsible drinking. In settings where both violence and alcohol use are statically likely, the two need not have a causal link to each other in order to share common causal links with the overarching sociological settings in which they are found.
To support this possible explanation regarding social control, Shepherd asserts that in earlier generations, adolescents, young adults, and older adults were all likely to drink both in the same public settings and in private or domestic settings, whereas more recent history has seen the emergence of bars and nightclubs that are geared towards attendance primarily by young adults, who then learn social customs related to drinking from the examples set by peers rather than by older (and presumably more responsible) adults. A significant body of evidence exists to support the argument that drinking habits are learned both in social settings and in family settings, with the drinking habits of young males reflecting those of parents and friends (Shepherd, 1994). This combination of familial and peer influences, then, may have a compound effect wherein young males mirror the drinking habits to which they were exposed during childhood, and have these habits reinforced as young adults by other young adults.
In the face of the overwhelming statistical links between alcohol and violent crime, coupled with the relative absence of evidence demonstrating a causal link between the two, researchers have sought to find other explanations for such links. In the 1997 study “The Nexus between Alcohol and Violent Crime,” Zhang et al posit that alcohol acts as a “moderating variable” in violence; while it does not provide a direct causal link, the use of alcohol has both predictive and explanatory power where violence is concerned. Zhang et al specify four primary underlying motives for violent crimes: deviant motives or attitudes, aggression and hostility, impulsivity, and problem-solving. Along a spectrum of crimes ranging from less to more serious, Zhang et al found that deviant motives were the statistically likely underpinnings of more serious crimes, and that alcohol tended to be linked statistically to such crimes at a slightly lower rate than it did for crimes that were more likely to be associated with impulsivity.
Such findings offer some measure of insight into the links between alcohol and violent crime. In crimes where alcohol and impulsivity are closely correlated, alcohol may not serve in a direct causal role; the attendant lowering of inhibitions associated with alcohol use, however, may reduce limits on impulsive behavior, leading to behaviors that would otherwise be more likely to be kept in check. In crimes where alcohol has a lower rate of statistical links, but where the crimes themselves are more serious (such as aggravated assault or murder), the underlying deviant motives are what hold explanatory power, with the use of alcohol being an attendant, rather than a motivating behavior. In short, violent crimes associated with impulsivity are also more likely to be associated with alcohol use, while crimes associated with underlying deviant motives are somewhat less likely to be associated with alcohol use. In either case, however, the use of alcohol has a moderating, rather than a causal link.
As Shepherd notes, there are a variety of sociological factors to be considered when discussing the role of alcohol in the prevalence of violent crime. College campuses and other areas where college and college-aged young adults live and socialize are rife with stories of alcohol-associated crimes such as aggravated assault, sexual assault, and rape. The use of alcohol by college students is directly correlated with the likelihood of being victimized sexually, and the use of alcohol is strongly linked to fighting and other acts of violence (Fisher and Sloan, 2013). In the book “Campus Crime,” Fisher and Sloan examine the issue of alcohol use by college students in an effort to determine how significant a role it plays in incidents of violence and other crimes. According to the authors, one of the statistical factors that is often overlooked –if not outright ignored- is the role that alcohol plays in victimization. While the high rates at which alcohol is used by violent offenders are well known and are the subject of a significant body of research, the rates at which alcohol use by victims of such crimes can be demonstrated has been given much less consideration (Fisher and Sloan).
College campuses and college social life are often associated with binge drinking, which in turn is often associated with crimes such as assault and rape (Fisher and Sloan). Lesser crimes, including those that involve damage to property or other non-violent offenses, are also strongly linked to alcohol in the college-campus setting (Fisher and Sloan). It is necessary to consider, however, that the term “college students, “campus,” and other descriptors cover a broad range of persons and settings. Of the millions of people enrolled in colleges at any given time, some will be teenaged, others adults; some will live in on-campus housing, others will live in apartments or in other settings; some will be members of fraternities or sororities, others will work at off-campus jobs and only visit campuses to attend classes. With these considerations in mind, it must be remembered that any discussion of “college students” includes a broad array of people and circumstances.
With such considerations in mind, the issue of alcohol-related crime among college students covers a significantly vast territory. In sum, however, alcohol-related crimes are significantly higher among college students in general than they are among the general population as a whole (Fisher and Sloan). In terms of reported crimes on or near college campuses, alcohol is a factor in a great majority of them (Fisher and Sloan); concurrently, however, overall rates of most violent crimes (robbery, aggravated assault, etc.) are actually lower for college students than for the general population (Fisher and Sloan). Unfortunately for college students, however, the rates of sexual assault, rape, and other sexual violent crimes are significantly higher for them than they are among the general population.
Further complicating the issue of how alcohol and crime are linked are studies that demonstrate a clear correlation between alcohol availability and crime. Grubesic et al (2013) assess the density of alcohol outlets (retailers, bars, and other establishments where alcohol can be purchase or consumed) in a given area (in this case, in a specific geographic region of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) and measure that against the incidence of violent crime in the same area. Using spatial analysis, alcohol outlets and incidents of violent crime can me mapped and overlaid to provide direct visual evidence of any relationships between the two. As Grubesic et al hypothesize, a direct correlation between alcohol availability and the prevalence of violent crime was found, with both the numbers and severity of violent crimes dropping off significantly as the density of alcohol outlets decreased.
Similar studies that examined connections between alcohol and broader categories of crime (such as burglary, larceny, vagrancy, driving while intoxicated, and underage drinking) reached similar conclusions. It is not just violent crimes that show a strong positive link to the availability of alcohol; a wide range of non-violent crimes are slow shown to be statistically linked with alcohol outlets (Stitt and Giacopassi, 2012).
In the absence of direct causal links between alcohol and crime –especially violent crime- researchers have sought ways to explain the overwhelmingly significant statistical links between alcohol and crime. A variety of different theories have been put forth, with most of them resting on one form or another of the premise that alcohol use and crime share one or more underpinning causes. From a sociological standpoint, the links between alcohol and crime might be explained by the manner or settings in which offenders were raised, and the influence or lack thereof of appropriate parental and familial role models. From a psychological perspective, offenders may exhibit tendencies towards criminal or violent behavior that are otherwise inhibited in the absence of alcohol; physiological explanations for the link between alcohol and crime include considerations about how alcohol affects brain chemistry differently for some individuals than it does for others.
While each of these perspectives offer some measure of explanatory power where the link between alcohol and crime is concerned, none seem to fully explain why and how the use of alcohol by offenders or victims is so strongly associated with criminal offense and victimization. The vast majority of those who drink alcohol do so without committing crimes, yet a significant number of crimes are perpetrated by those who have used alcohol. In the absence of a single clear explanation for the link between alcohol and crime, it seems clear that there is a confluence of factors that can and do combine to underpin these links.
Brecklin, L., & Ullman, S. (2001). The Role of Offender Alcohol Use in Rape Attacks. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 16(1), 3-21.
This study examines the role of “preassualt alcohol use” by offenders who committed sexual assaults. Preassault alcohol use was hyptehesized to correlate to a higher rate of “risky assault characteristics” (i.e.- assaults on strangers; the use of weapons). According to the results of the study, this hypothesis was borne out; alcohol was shown to have a high correlation both to sexual assuals generally and to “risky assault characteristics.”
Donovan, B. (2008, April 3). Alcohol fuels crime increase. Navajo Times [Navajo Nation].
This news article discusses crime statistics on the Navajo Nation for 2008. The overall rate of violent crimes was down, but the correlation between the use of alcohol and incidents of violent crime (assaults, rapes, murders, etc.) was significant.
Fisher, B., & Sloan, J. J. (2013). Campus crime: Legal, social, and policy perspectives. Springfield, Ill: Charles C. Thomas, Publisher.
This book provides an overview of the issue of “campus crime,” discussing crime statistics, prevention measures, and other matters related to the subject. Chapter 9 of the book is entitled “The Role of Alcohol Abuse in College Student Victimization.” The authors note that “alcohol plays a very important, complex, but often unrecognized or poorly-understood role in campus crime.” Some specific crimes discussed in this chapter include sexual assaults and the role played by alcohol, both for perpetrator and victim. The authors raise questions about what responsibility educational institutions have in addressing issues related to alcohol abuse and crime prevention.
Greenfield, L. (n.d.). Alcohol and crime: an analysis of national data on the prevalence of alcohol involvement in crime. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.
Drafted for the 1998 National Symposium on Alcohol Abuse and Crime, this book offers a range of statistical information. Among the chapter headings are “Measuring the Extent to Which Alcohol is Involved in Crime,” “DUI/DWI: Arrests and Fatal Accidents,” and “Use of Alcohol by Convicted Offenders.” The book demonstrates that there is a significant correlation between alcohol and crime, particularly with violent crime.
Grubesic, T. H. et al (2013). Alcohol Outlet Density and Violence: The Role of Risky Retailers and Alcohol-Related Expenditures. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 48(5), 613-619.
The issue of alcohol availability and the correlation to crime has long been of interest to researchers. This study examines the issue through a “cross-sectional ecological study” conducted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The researchers mapped the presence of alcohol retailers and outlets within the studied region and compared the results to the distribution of assaults and other violent crimes within the same region. The results showed a “strong positive association between alcohol outlet density and violent crime.”
Markowitz, S. (2005). Alcohol, Drugs and Violent Crime. International Review of Law and Economics, 25(1), 20-44.
Markowitz examines the correlations between alcohol, illegal drugs, and incidents of violent crimes. This study determined a strong positive link between alcohol availability and violent crime; the evidence for a, link between illegal drug use and violent crime was less marked, though there was a link between the pricing and availability of illegal drugs and crimes such as robbery and burglary.
Marteau, D. (2008). How alcohol may precipitate violent crime. Drugs and Alcohol Today,8(2), 12-16.
This article addresses the complex links between alcohol and crime, noting that “millions of people drink alcohol every day and do not commit crimes.” The issue of alcohol and physiology is addressed, along with a discussion about how different people process alcohol on a physiological level. The author asserts that for some people, the processing of alcohol has an effect on brain chemistry that can precipitate aggressive or violent behavior.
Miller et al, T. R. (2006). Costs of Alcohol and Drug-Involved Crime. Prevention Science,7(4), 333-342.
This quantitative analysis examines statistics related to the involvement of Alcohol and other drugs (AOD) with crimes, looking specifically for the monetary costs involved. The overall assessment includes such costs as property damage, medical costs, and adjudication and prosecutorial costs. The costs of alcohol-related violent crimes are, according to this study, more than $84 billion annually (as of 2006).
Room, R. (2005). Alcohol and public health. The Lancet, 365(9458), 519-530.
Noting that the use of alcohol can and does present a significant public health issue, this article considers the impact of alcohol in terms of violence, DUI and other alcohol-related driving accidents, and alcohol-related diseases. Despite significant advances in our understanding of alcohol as a public health issue, notes the author, the problems and costs associated with alcohol continue to grow.
Shepherd, J. (1995). Violent crime: the role of alcohol and new approaches to the prevention of injury. Alcohol & Alcoholism, 25(1), 5-10.
This 1994 study examines the issue of alcohol-related crime, and notes that much of the available evidence is statistical or data-related. The author seeks to delve further into the issue, comparing blood-alcohol levels (BAC) with the severity of injuries in violent crimes. The author finds significant positive correlation between higher BAC and higher levels of injury and death in violent crimes.
Stitt, B. G., & Giacopassi, D. J. (1992). Alcohol Availability and Alcohol-Related Crime.Criminal Justice Review, 17(2), 268-279.
This study examines alcohol availability at the state level, and asserts a strong positive correlation between rates of alcohol availability and rates of alcohol-related crimes.
Zhang, L. et al (1997). The Nexus between Alcohol and Violent Crime. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 21(7), 1264-1271.
This study “examines the nexus between alcohol and violent crime,” and defines alcohol as a “moderating variable” in such crimes. The authors note that correlation does not equal causation, but argue in favor of the notion that alcohol use can aggravate potential causal factors of crimes, especially of violent crimes.
Time is precious
don’t waste it!