Regulating alcohol outlet density is an evidence-based strategy for reducing excessive drinking. However, the effect of this strategy on violent crime has not been well characterized. A reduction in alcohol outlet density in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta from 2003 through 2007 provided an opportunity to evaluate this effect.
We conducted a community-based longitudinal study to evaluate the impact of changes in alcohol outlet density on violent crime in Buckhead compared with 2 other cluster areas in Atlanta (Midtown and Downtown) with high densities of alcohol outlets, from 1997 through 2002 (pre intervention) to 2003 through 2007 (post intervention). The relationship between exposures to on-premises retail alcohol outlets and violent crime were assessed by using annual spatially defined indices at the census block level. Multilevel regression models were used to evaluate the relationship between changes in exposure to on-premises alcohol outlets and violent crime while controlling for potential census block-level confounders.
A 3% relative reduction in alcohol outlet density in Buckhead from 1997–2002 to 2003–2007 was associated with a 2-fold greater reduction in exposure to violent crime than occurred in Midtown or Downtown, where exposure to on-premises retail alcohol outlets increased. The magnitude of the association between exposure to alcohol outlets and violent crime was 2 to 5 times greater in Buckhead than in either Midtown or Downtown during the postintervention period.
A modest reduction in alcohol outlet density can substantially reduce exposure to violent crime in neighborhoods with high density of alcohol outlets. Routine monitoring of community exposure to alcohol outlets could also inform the regulation of alcohol outlet density, consistent with Guide to Community Preventive Services recommendations.