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Alcohol and Crime: Behavioral Aspects

Implications For Alcohol Policy

From a pragmatic policy perspective, it may not matter whether alcohol causes crime or at what level such an association exists. If evidence accumulates that a particular policy change is followed by decreases in crime and violence, the "true" cause of the decrease may be drinking or may be something else related to drinking, but specifying the precise causal mechanism is unnecessary for demonstrating effects on public health. For example, reductions in alcohol availability may be followed by reductions in crime by affecting the offender, the victim, or the interaction between them, but the effect on the crime rate is the same. The practical applications of such a view are wide-reaching and do not require a determination of causal influence in the conventional sense.

In the modern era, most studies of alcohol and crime in English-speaking countries have focused their attention on the relationship as it may exist within the individual psyche—occasionally extending the view to cover factors in the immediate situation of the criminal event. Much remains to be learned, indeed, about the role of alcohol in criminal events, and about the intertwining of drinking and criminal behaviors. But from the point of view of policy, such studies often focus on elements of the connection that are the hardest to change. The studies of change over time reawaken one to the existence of historical change and to the possibility of doing something to prevent crime by influencing the fact, context, and consequences of drinking. This is a worthy agenda for future research and experiment.

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