Multiple studies find clear connection between liquor establishments and crime in mostly poor neighborhoods.
The most recent study on the subject was released by Johns Hopkins University in February of this year. That study found a neighborhood with an alcohol outlet, as opposed to one without one, had a 3.3-percent increase in violent crimes. Jacky Jennings, who conducted the study looking at liquor establishments in Baltimore, Maryland, found neighborhoods densely populated with liquor stores are behind much of the crime in that city.
“There’s no question alcohol can drive domestic violence, assaults, and fatal accidents higher,” said police director Jerry Speziale. “Alcohol is a factor in a lot of crime.”
Speziale said the city’s new ordinance to reduce hours of operations for liquor stores and bars from 3 a.m. to 2 a.m. is being guided by similar studies.
Another study that looked at the connection between liquor stores and crime in Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods of West Side or South Side found being near a liquor store or a tavern in those areas increased the likelihood of being shot by 300 times. The study conducted by Marie Crandall of Northwestern University looked at the proximity of liquor outlets and gunshot victims from 1999 to 2009.
“You’re adding alcohol to an already volatile situation in a distressed community,” said Crandall when her study was initially released in September 2013. “If you light a match in the rainforest and throw it on the ground, the match will go out. If you light a match in a haystack in the middle of a drought, a powder keg will go off. These neighborhoods are powder kegs because they are challenged with high rates of unemployment, faltering economies, loss of jobs and institutionalized poverty and racism.”
Liquor stores seem to be crime catalysts in poor neighborhoods. In another study, this one conducted by Bing-ru Teh of the University of California, Berkeley, found that liquor establishments in low socioeconomic neighborhoods – the bottom two quintiles of average income based on census data – in Los Angles reduced property values by up to 4-percent and increased violent crime within 0.1 mile of the establishment by up to 6-percent.
However, liquor stores in affluent neighborhoods – top two quintiles – had an opposite impact: violent crime was reduced in the neighborhood and property values were not impacted.
Jennings’ study in Baltimore resulted in draconian measures being brought against liquor stores. The mayor and city council in that city put in force a ban on new liquor stores from locating 300 feet near an existing one to reduce density of the troublesome establishments. Another ordinance ordered liquor stores to cease operations in residential areas within two years or stop selling alcohol.
Although mayor Jose “Joey” Torres is basing the reduction of hours of operation for liquor establishments on studies showing connection between alcohol outlets and crime, there has not been any studies showing reducing hours will reduce crime.
Crandall said it would be interesting to see if the reduction of hours will have a corresponding impact on crime, but added she is not aware of any studies that demonstrate such.
Speaking from a practical policing standpoint, Speziale said by cutting back hours of operations to 2 a.m. city establishments will serve their last drinks at 1:30 a.m. – last call. “It gives you an extra hour-and-half of dry,” said Speziale.