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More Bars Equals More Assaults, Study Finds

As number of outlets for buying booze increases, so does neighborhood violence, research shows

SUNDAY, Feb. 21 (HealthDay News) -- The more bars, restaurants and other alcohol sales sites in a neighborhood, the higher its level of violence, say researchers who studied crime statistics and alcohol licensing data from Cincinnati.

The Indiana University study also found an association between high assault rates and stores that sell alcohol for off-premise consumption. These alcohol outlets appear to be associated with about 25 percent of simple assaults and about one-third of aggravated assaults, according to the researchers.

"A higher density of alcohol sales outlets in an area means closer proximity and easier availability to an intoxicating substance for residents," study author William Alex Pridemore, a professor of criminal justice, said in a university news release. "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."

Pridemore and colleague Tony Grubesic, a geography professor, compared Cincinnati crime statistics from January to June 2008 with the locations of alcohol sales outlets. The average density of assaults was 69 per square mile and the average density of alcohol outlets was 20 per square mile.

The researchers concluded 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. Adding one bar per square mile would lead to 1.35 more simple assaults, while adding one restaurant per square mile would lead to 1.15 more simple assaults.

"We believe that alcohol outlets, as a source of community-level variation in levels of interpersonal violence, deserve greater attention in the criminological literature," Pridemore said. "The nature of our findings should encourage further investigation of the nature of the ecological association between alcohol, violence and other negative outcomes within communities."

The study findings were scheduled to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, held Feb. 18 to 22 in San Diego.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about alcohol and health risks.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Indiana University, news release, Feb. 21, 2010

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