alcohol and crime 115

deterring drunk driving: at least two thirds of
the fatal alcohol involved accidents are caused
by repeat drink drivers. Effective measures
for controlling drunk driving and alcohol
related accidents include lowering legal blood
alcohol concentrations, controlling liquor out
lets, nighttime driving curfews for minors,
educational treatment programs combined with
license suspension for offenders, and court
monitoring of high risk offenders.
Data demonstrate the close association
between alcohol and violent crimes. Nationally,
about 30 percent of violent crimes involved
an offender who had been drinking according
to victimization data (Bureau of Justice Statis
tics 2004). At the macro level, alcohol availabil
ity rates and alcohol consumption rates are
associated with violent crime. Yet at the
micro level, alcohol increases the risk of violent
behavior only for certain individuals and under
some social situations or cultural influences. For
example, drinking is conducive to aggression
when alcohol intoxication is celebrated as a dis
play of masculinity and male togetherness or
when certain situational cues, such as weapons
or hostile peers, are present.
Although perpetrators are far more likely
than victims to be intoxicated, the role of alco
hol in violent victimization is largest among
groups that, if not intoxicated, are normally
less vulnerable to violence: whites, males, and
persons of higher socioeconomic status. Diffi
cult temperament, hyperactivity, hostile beliefs,
history of family violence, poor school perfor
mance, delinquent peers, criminogenic beliefs
about alcohols effects, impulsivity, and antiso
cial personality disorder are risk factors that
increase the likelihood of alcohol related vio
lence and could appear in childhood and ado
lescence as its precursors.
Alcohol use typically co occurs with domes
tic violence. Two thirds of victims reported
alcohol being a factor. Recent findings have also
corroborated the role of alcohol in female to
male and same sex partner violence. Although
moderate drinkers are more frequently engaged
in intimate violence than are light drinkers and
abstainers, only heavy and/or binge drinkers
are involved in the most chronic and serious
forms of aggression. The odds, frequency, and
severity of physical attacks are highest on days
of alcohol use. Relationship stress, deficient
conflict/anger management skills, and a history
of physical abuse heighten risks of violence due
to alcohol abuse or dependence in an intimate
relationship. Clinical data attest that violence
decreases after behavioral marital alcoholism
The role of parental alcohol abuse in the per
petration of physical or sexual child abuse has
not been conclusively established. However,
some research indicates that parental alcohol
abuse may increase a childs risk of experiencing
physical or sexual abuse. Potential contributors
to alcohol induced child abuse include low
socioeconomic status, relationship stress between
parents, and parental history of violence.
Alcohol is also a contributor to nuisance,
loitering, panhandling, and disorderly conduct
in open spaces. The prevalence of alcohol use is
high among the homeless and street youths.
The mere sight and smell of alcohol related
incivilities instill a sense of insecurity in the
citizenry. Policing alcohol related street disor
der and enforcing compliance checks of alcohol
dispensing businesses have proved promising in
reducing citizens fear of crime and preventing
further deterioration of community safety.
A particular alcohol organized crime connec
tion was seen after 1919 when the ratification of
the 18th Amendment outlawed the production,
sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages
across the US. The emergence of a national
market for bootlegged liquor increased the vis
ibility, influence, lethality, and wealth of crim
inal organizations and severely corrupted the
enforcement apparatus (Miron 2004). Homicide
rates grew dramatically in major urban areas
during the 1920s. Public health gains of Prohi
bition were achieved at a public safety cost that
the society was unwilling to tolerate. The 21st
Amendment repealed the 18th in 1933.
The mere co occurrence of alcohol use and
violence does not prove that alcohol use causes
violence. In some cases, the desire or plan to
use violence may actually trigger alcohol con
sumption (i.e., drinking to embolden oneself
before attacking someone). Moreover, certain
common factors may lead to both alcohol con
sumption and violence (i.e., some youth gangs
encourage both heavy drinking and fighting).
The causal pathways between alcohol and
human violence in diverse contexts remain to
be determined.