Alcohol intoxication and violent crime: Implications for public health policy

G. M. McClelland*, L. A. Teplin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations

Abstract

Despite extensive public health campaigns, the consequences of alcohol intoxication continue to be a serious public health concern. Alcohol intoxication, for example, is a prevalent feature of crime, especially violent crime. Previous studies of alcohol intoxication and violent crime have used samples of police reports, correctional populations (arrestees, jail detainees, or convicted offenders), or community surveys. Studies using police reports and correctional populations are biased because few police-citizen encounters result in police reports or arrest. Community surveys avoid these biases but rely on the subject's assessment of both the victims' and the suspects' intoxication. We took a different approach and directly observed 2,365 police-citizen encounters. Observers used the Alcohol Symptom Checklist to determine the level of alcohol intoxication or impairment. We compared the prevalence of suspects' and victims' alcohol intoxication (equivalent to a blood alcohol level [BAL] of .05 or above) by type of encounter and computed odds ratios to assess the association between intoxication and type of encounter. We also controlled for demographic characteristics (race, gender, age, and socio-economic status) to assess the relationships among perpetration, victimization, and intoxication. Overall, suspects are far more likely than victims to be intoxicated; not surprisingly, suspects in public order/vandalism encounters are the most likely to be intoxicated. Alcohol intoxication appears to contribute substantially to violent victimization. The role of alcohol intoxication is largest among groups that, if not intoxicated, are generally less vulnerable to violence: whites, males, and persons of higher socio-economic status. We discuss the implications of these findings for services and public health policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)s70-s85
JournalAmerican Journal on Addictions
Volume10
Issue numberSUPPL.
DOIs
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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