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Availability Limits Research Remains “Rather Mixed” After German State Off-Premise Ban

“So far, the evidence on the effects of temporal alcohol availability restrictions on crime is rather mixed.”  So note the authors of a study on the impact of a late-night ban (10 PM to 5 AM) of off-premise alcohol sales in Germany’s 3d largest state, Baden-Württemberg, (population 11 million) from March 2010 to November 2017.  The ban was subsequently lifted. Findings of studies of similar bans in the US, Sweden and Brazil ranged from “no effect on crime” to “significantly lower homicide and battery levels,” the authors pointed out. They hoped to discern a causal relationship of this “soft intervention,” as opposed to the correlations found in (almost all) previous research into this and other alcohol policies. 

Using two different tests − comparing daytime and nighttime crime trends in Baden-Württemberg before and after the ban, and comparing crime data in the state vs a similar state (Hesse) − the authors found: “The temporary alcohol sales ban led to fewer reported incidents of both simple assault and aggravated assault (11 and 8 per cent respectively), but had no significant effect on late-night rape or robbery.”

Interestingly, “with respect to simple assault, the difference stems from a smaller increase in the nighttime crime incidents when compared to daytime crime incidents.  In other words, the results suggest that nighttime crime would have increased similar to rate of daytime crime without the sales ban.” The authors don’t seem to entertain the possibility that some other factor may have led to the greater increase in daytime assaults.  A separate study of the same ban found that youth hospitalization rates remained constant in Baden-Württemberg before and after the ban.  But since the hospitalization rate increased in a control area, the authors of that study presumed the ban had a positive impact. 

The authors identified “several channels “that “presumably…contributed” to the reduction in crime.  “Presumably” is the key word. “A direct effect on the level of consumption is to be expected,” they claim, without providing any data on actual consumption patterns.  One must presume they did not ask or even try to determine whether consumption shifted to on-premise outlets not subject to the ban.  Also, “the policy probably lowered the attractiveness of hanging out in public places (when compared to other ways to spend the night) and thereby reduced the number of interpersonal interactions at risk for a criminal incident.”  Again, they provided no “hanging out” data.

So, in the end, these results suggest the evidence regarding limits on hours of sale and crime remains “rather mixed.”  And although the authors try to claim a causal relationship in Baden-Württemberg, they do not establish one.

Publishing Info

  • Year: 2019
  • Volume: 36
  • Issue #: 38
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