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More alcohol sales sites mean more neighborhood violence, new Indiana University research finds

More alcohol sales sites in a neighborhood equate to more violence, and the highest assault rates are associated with carry-out sites selling alcohol for off-premise consumption, according to new research released Feb. 21 by two Indiana University Bloomington professors.


The map shows the distribution of assault frequency around specific purveyors of alcohol

Print-Quality Photo

Using crime statistics and alcohol outlet licensing data from Cincinnati to examine the spatial relationship between alcohol outlet density and assault density, Department of Criminal Justice professor William Alex Pridemore and Department of Geography professor Tony Grubesic found that off-premise outlets appeared to be responsible for about one in four simple assaults and one in three aggravated assaults.

The findings were released at a press briefing titled "Using Geographic Information Systems and Spatial Analysis to Better Understand Patterns and Causes of Violence" and presented as part of the Feb. 18-22 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Diego, Calif.

"A higher density of alcohol sales outlets in an area means closer proximity and easier availability to an intoxicating substance for residents," Pridemore said. "Perhaps just as importantly, alcohol outlets provide a greater number of potentially deviant places. Convenience stores licensed to sell alcohol may be especially troublesome in this regard, as they often serve not only as sources of alcohol but also as local gathering places with little formal social control."

Using different suites of spatial regression models, the researchers found 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.

"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," Grubesic noted. "These represent substantial reductions and clearly reveal the impact of alcohol outlet density on assault density in our sample."

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 tracts and represent the smallest unit available for socioeconomic analysis using data from the Census Bureau.

This article was originally published on Feb. 22, 2010.