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Alcohol and Crime: Behavioral Aspects

Types Of Offenses

A common generalization about the role of alcohol in different types of crimes is that alcohol more often accompanies violent crime against people than property crime, but these findings are inconsistent (Collins and Messerschmidt; Graham, Schmidt, and Gillis). For example, a 1998 study of alcohol and crime produced by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics showed that similar proportions of convicted offenders in state prisons had been drinking when they committed violent offenses (37.5 percent) or property offenses (31.8 percent) (Greenfeld). In samples of people who are arrested for crimes, however, there are larger differences in alcohol involvement in violent versus property crime (Wiley and Weisner).

Alcohol involvement in different kinds of crimes may involve different mechanisms. For example, although robbery involves premeditated violence, it is usually thought to be qualitatively different from the violence that typically occurs as a result of interpersonal conflict (Collins and Messerschmidt). And indeed, studies of offenders show that the percentage of alcohol involvement tends to be lower in robberies than in homicide and assault (Greenfeld). In property offenses, some offenders may drink to steady their nerves before committing the crime; thus, the motivation for the crime is independent of drinking (Collins, 1991). Drinking may even be a deterrent to professional property crime because it leads to unreliability, creating a barrier to admission to crime partnerships (Cordilia).

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawAlcohol and Crime: Behavioral Aspects - Empirical Evidence On Alcohol And Crime, Studies Of Criminal Events, Types Of Offenses, Biases In Studies Of Events