Publication date: Jan 23, 2024
We investigated whether greater concentrations of on- and off-sale alcohol outlets were associated with crime and whether this association was moderated by COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders (SIP) that restricted on-premises consumption of alcohol. Crimes (2019-2020) and addresses of licenced alcohol outlets in a medium-sized California city were geocoded within census block groups (N = 61). On- and off-sale alcohol outlet density was calculated as licenced outlets/2. 59 km (1 square mile). Multilevel negative binomial regression analyses were conducted to examine associations between alcohol outlet density and crime, and possible moderating effects of SIP, controlling for block group demographic characteristics and density of other retail businesses. On-sale outlet density was positively associated with total crimes and Part 2 crimes, while off-sale outlet density was inversely associated with total crime and Part 2 crimes. Overall, SIP was not significantly associated with crime, but moderated the associations of on-sale density with total crime and Part 1 crimes such that reductions in crime during SIP were observed in higher density areas. The association of off-sale outlets with crime was not moderated by SIP policies. On-sale outlet density, but not off-sale density, appears to be associated with increased crime. The results further indicate that restrictions in hours and service imposed by SIP policies reduced crime in high on-sale outlet density areas. These findings reinforce the importance of regulating alcohol outlet density and hours of service, especially for on-sale outlets, as a crime reduction strategy.