Alcohol Licensing Policies and Alcohol-Related Crimes

Excessive drinking can contribute to social problems. These include the disruption of public order, violence, and sexual crimes. Can  local alcohol licensing policies reduce alcohol-related crimes?

The Study

Researchers studied the impact of local licensing restrictions on the spatial and/or temporal availability of alcohol in England. They categorized each local area according to its licensing policy intensity. The categories for alcohol licensing policies were “passive,” low, medium and high.

The investigators then calculated the rates of reported crimes in each area. These included sexual crimes, violence against a person, and public order crimes attributable to alcohol. The rate of financial fraud was a control crime not attributable to alcohol.

alcohol licensing policiesResearchers adjusted the crime rates for area population size, deprivation, outlet density, and alcohol-related hospital admissions at baseline.

The rate of alcohol-related crimes dropped faster for four years in the areas with more intense policies. However, such crimes then increased. So there was no long-term difference in alcohol-related crimes and licensing policies. And there was no change in the the rate of financial fraud over time. It was the non-alcohol-related control variable


There was no overall impact of the strength of local alcohol licensing policies on alcohol-related crimes in England.


De Vocht, F., et al. Testing the impact of local alcohol licencing policies on reported crime rates in England. J Epideem Comm Health, 2016, doi:10.1136/jech-2016-207753


Kara, D., et al. Omnibus Survey. Testing Public Opinion on Licensing Law and Alcohol Consumption. Edinburgh: Scottish Executive Social Research, 2003.

Local Government Association. Unfinished Business. A State-of-Play Report on Alcohol and the Licensing Act 2003. London: The Association, 2008.

NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research. The Association between Alcohol Outlet Density and Assaults on and Around Licensed Premises. Sydney: The Bureau, 2011.

NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research. The Impact of Restricted Alcohol Availability on Alcohol-Related Violence in Newcastle, NSW.  Sydney: The Bureau, 2009.

Reid-Howie Associates. Liquor Licensing and Public Disorder. Edinburgh: Scottish Executive Social Research, 2003.

Rowan, K. Alcohol Availability and Violent Crime. M.A. thesis, U South Florida, 1997.

Trifonoff, A. Liquor Licensing Legislation in Australia.
Adelaide, S. Aust.: Nat Centre for Ed and Training on Addiction, 2012.