Lots of Liquor Stores Sell Singles Near You? Move!

By Will Godfrey 09/12/11

Groundbreaking new studies link liquor store density, numbers of single-serve containers for sale, and violent crime.

One thing leads to another. Thinkstock

Liquor stores are doubly to blame for violent crimes in neighborhoods across the nation, according to two major new studies from the University of California, Riverside: too many liquor stores in one area lead to violence—and lots of single-serving cans on the shelves are also bad news. The first study analyzed data from 91 of America's largest cities, from Alabama to Wisconsin, and found a clear correlation between higher density of alcohol outlets and higher homicide rates among the 13-24 age group for a given neighborhood. Data was weighed to take into account other known aggravating factors such as poverty, gangs and ease of access to drugs and guns. "Our findings suggest that reducing retail alcohol outlet density should significantly reduce the trends of youth homicide," said sociology professor Robert N. Parker, one of the authors. Study Number Two involved researchers visiting every liquor store in San Bernardino, California, to painstakingly calculate the percentage of cooler space devoted to single-serve containers in each case. Nothing quite like this had been attempted before, and the result was a "modest" but demonstrable correlation between more single-serve containers per store and higher violent crime rates in a store's neighborhood—particularly when over 10% of cooler-space is devoted to singles. The studies are published in September's Drug and Alcohol Review. "These results suggest that alcohol control can be an important tool in violence prevention,” said Parker. They also paint an intriguing picture of economizing post-2008 thugs, willing to spend only exactly as much as it takes to tip them over the edge.

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Will Godfrey is the former editor-in-chief of TheFix. He was also the founding editor-in-chief of Substance.com, and previously co-founded a magazine for prisoners in London. His work has appeared in Salon, Pacific Standard, AlterNet and The Nation among others. He is currently the Executive Director at FILTER. You can find Will on Linkedin and Twitter.