Violent crime imposes enormous costs on victims, their families, and society. One factor that has been frequently cited as a potential causal factor in violent crime is the use/abuse of alcohol. Statistics indicate that about half of arrestees in US Cities in 2003 engaged in recent binge drinking, while US data from 1993 indicate that almost half of those convicted on assault and murder charges had been drinking at the time of the incident. Despite the strong positive correlation between alcohol use and violent crime, evidence to date on the effects of alcohol control policies on violent crime is surprisingly limited, and findings are mixed. This application aims to examine the impact of four different alcohol control policies which were implemented in the 1980's and 1990's on violent crime in New York City. We will examine four different types of violent crimes and compare the results to the effects of the policies on non-violent property crimes. We will apply modern time-series econometric techniques that have never been applied to the alcohol policy/crime question, and which will address some of the methodological issues which have hampered most prior research. Specifically, we examine high-frequency (monthly) aggregate data for New York City to: 1) Investigate the relationship between the alcohol policies implemented during our time series and alcohol consumption for three different alcoholic beverages: beer, wine, and spirits, plus a combined measure of alcohol consumption. 2) Examine the relationship between alcohol consumption and violent (and property) crime over a twenty-three year time period (1983 through 2006) using monthly time series data, to address the question of whether an increase (decrease) in alcohol consumption results in an increase (decrease) in violent crime. These will lead to our key analysis: 3) The link between these alcohol-related policies and the extent of violent criminal activity. Analyses in (3) will cover an even longer time span (1970 through 2006). The study will provide evidence on the effectiveness of alcohol control policies as a means of controlling violent criminal behavior, and will have implications for both alcohol and crime policy.

Public Health Relevance

Although the positive correlation between alcohol consumption and violent behavior is well-established, there remains considerable uncertainty about whether alcohol control policies affect violent crime. The purpose of this study is to examine whether changes in alcohol policies affect aggregate alcohol consumption, whether changes in alcohol consumption affect violent behavior, and whether changes in alcohol policies affect violent behavior. The results will inform public policy on the best ways to reduce both alcohol consumption and violent behaviors.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Small Research Grants (R03)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-PSE-C (90))
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Freeman, Robert
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National Bureau of Economic Research
United States
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