Alcohol Outlet Density, Deprivation, and Crime in Scotland

David Rice



Alcohol use has been linked to a number of crimes including common assault (Liang & Chikritzhs 2011), crimes of violence (Day et al. 2012), sexual crimes (Zimmerman & Benson 2007), domestic violence (McKinney et al. 2009), drug offences (Pearson & Patel 1998) antisocial behaviour (Hayward & Sharp 2005), and vandalism (Baker & Wolfer 2003).  Research is now looking deeper into the relationships between alcohol, the alcohol environment and crime.  The majority of these studies have investigated alcohol outlet density but there is a lack of research in this area in Britain and Scotland.



Research Questions


·         Is there an association between the density of alcohol outlets and small area level deprivation in Scotland? 

·         Is there an association between the density of alcohol outlets and small area level crime in Scotland?

·         Does any relationship vary by type of alcohol outlet (total, off-licence, or on-licence)?





Alcohol outlet data was sourced from Scotland’s 32 liquor licensing boards by Shortt et al. at the Centre for Research on Environments, Society and Health (CRESH).  This point data set contained counts of alcohol outlets for each postcode in Scotland.  Density was calculated by creating a kernel density estimation (KDE) surface for total, off-licence, and on-licence outlets (figure 1).  All KDE’s were produced using CrimeStat v3.1 (Levine 2007) and mean outlet densities calculated for each data zone in Scotland.



Figure 1.  Kernel density estimate surface for total, off, and on-licence alcohol outlet density.


Data zone level crime data was sourced from the crime domain of the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) as was deprivation which was taken from the overall SIMD data but with the crime and geographical access domains removed using the equation (The Scottish Government 2012):



This study used a combination of ordinal logistic regression and Kruskal-Wallis tests to investigate the relationships and differences within and between the datasets at the data zone level. This national analysis was completed alongside a case study centred on Scotland’s largest city Glasgow which employed police violent crime data at the postcode district level. 



Results and Discussion


In Scotland data zone off-licence outlet density exhibited a strong positive association with deprivation, and crime.  The link between off-licence outlet density and crime has also been observed in a number of other studies (Theall et al. 2009, Gruenewald et al. 2010, Reboussin 2011).  The relationships involving on-licence outlet density were significant but more difficult to interpret; the associations were weaker with the regression analysis suggesting a slightly negative relationship.  This confusion may possibly be due to the wide range of on-licence outlets (pubs, night clubs, and restaurants) (Lugo 2008).


In the Greater Glasgow area there was little evidence of an association between deprivation and outlet density except for the postcode districts with the least deprivation also having the lowest density of alcohol outlets of all types.  The relationships between outlet density and violent crimes were also more complicated, this may be related to the non systematic distribution of outlets by deprivation in Glasgow observed by Ellaway et al. (2010).  This may also be due to the large areal units used for the available police violent crime data.


Nationally the study suggests a disproportionate association between off-licence alcohol outlet density and crime and that these higher densities are found in the more deprived areas of Scotland placing an increased burden on the communities who can least afford it.





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Created by David Rice, 13th September 2013.

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