Crime rates in Scotland directly linked to number of off-licences in area
THE level of crime in a community is directly linked to the number of shops selling alcohol, claims new research.
Neighbourhoods with six or more alcohol outlets suffer twice as much crime as areas with three, according to the study by Glasgow University.
The findings have prompted calls for a crackdown on the number of shops, bars, off-licences and supermarkets allowed to sell drink in any one community.
Campbell Corrigan, assistant chief constable of Strathclyde police, said Holyrood should legislate to make it easier to stop alcohol sales.
Meanwhile, academics said the Scottish Government may need to reduce the number of outlets selling alcohol to combat the country’s drink problem.
The “causes of crime” research, which is based on statistics from police and the local council, found that the availability of alcohol is the most important factor after deprivation.
The academics calculated crime rates for areas of the city that contained about 500 homes. An increase in the number of alchol outlets from three to six was linked to an almost-doubling of the crime rate. They also discovered that an increase in poverty from 20 to 40 per cent of households resulted in a 50 per cent increase in the crime rate.
Mr Corrigan said: “This study provides the science to what we had suspected for a long time.
“We should not be allowing too many alcohol outlets to open in these areas.
“The body of evidence suggests we should make it a lot easier to restrict provision.
“We need policing and we need to encourage people to get out of the cycle of drinking too much alcohol, but we need tighter legislation that allows for the restriction of alcohol outlets.”
Jon Bannister, one of the Glasgow University academics who conducted the research, said government policies that currently concentrate on alcohol promotion and price may need to be extended. “Our research indicates policy on ‘over- provision’ may be under- developed,” he said.
“To reduce crime, the Scottish Government may need to reduce the availability of alcohol through licensed premises.”
Karyn McCluskey, the co- ordinator of the national Violence Reduction Unit, said: “There is an overprovision of alcohol and I can’t believe it is sold in petrol stations, but I don’t think the problem is just about provision.
“I fully believe in minimum pricing because we need to change the mood music in Scotland. But it is not just about pricing: we need to look at why people are drinking.”
Ade Kearns, professor of urban studies at the University of Glasgow, one of the researchers on the study, said: “The health and wellbeing of Scottish communities depends upon government being effective in tackling alcohol culture to at least the same degree as they have been successful in reducing the social acceptability of smoking.
“But this means being robust in addressing alcohol availability within communities as well as trying to reduce demand through the price mechanism.”
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