By Professor Ade Kearns, GoWell Principal Investigator
This briefing paper looks at findings from research which set out to question whether there are any other neighbourhood characteristics, besides the well-documented factor of deprivation, that have an independent influence on the rate of crime.
The research was done as part of the GCPH’s GoWell Research Programme. You can download the briefing paper on the GoWell website: Briefing Paper 20: Neighbourhood Structures and Crime Rates in Glasgow.
The key finding was that the most significant of these factors was the presence and number of alcohol outlets. For all types of crime, the availability of alcohol is associated with local crime rates.
Alcohol outlets generate their own particular crimes in and around venues, but alcohol also acts as an accelerant, or ‘inhibition-reducer’, for opportunistic crime, and plays a part in many other crimes like domestic violence.
There have been important policies introduced in Scotland in recent years to tackle problems associated with alcohol over-consumption and dependence. Legislation has focused particularly on issues of the accessibility of alcohol to young people, low prices or cheap alcohol, and the promotion of alcohol consumption by producers and retailers.
However, when it comes to the number of places licensed to sell alcohol in any particular area, policy provision seems weaker. Whilst licensing boards are required under legislation to consider whether there are any areas of ‘overprovision’ within their jurisdiction, there is no commitment to necessarily refuse a licence application in an area of ‘overprovision’. In any case, a refusal can be overturned on appeal. There is no policy to actually reduce the number of licensed outlets in any area.
Further consideration should be given at national and local level to the rationale, definition and operation of licensing policies related to the ‘overprovision’ of alcohol outlets in local areas. We hope that this research can be a catalyst for furthering debate among policy-makers.
Ade Kearns is Professor of Urban Studies at the University of Glasgow and is Principal Investigator for the GoWell programme. He has lead responsibility for the community health and wellbeing survey and longitudinal study. He has held roles as a housing analyst and Research Fellow. This briefing paper on neighbourhood crime rates and alcohol in Glasgow is one of a number of outputs from the Go Well study.