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Study suggests closing bars early reduces late-night crime

Boston University researchers followed crime rates around a group of bars that Maryland lawmakers forced to close early.
Study suggests closing bars early reduces late-night crime
Posted at 12:35 PM, Apr 02, 2024

A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine on Monday indicates that cutting late-night alcohol sales cut violent crime in a Baltimore neighborhood. 

The study authored by Boston University researchers suggests that late-night violent crimes declined by 23% in Baltimore's Old East community after reducing the time alcohol is served by seven hours daily. Previously, establishments could sell alcohol from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. 

Legislation passed in Maryland's legislature changed the hours alcohol could be served in the community to 9 a.m. through 10 p.m. The change had an immediate effect on violent crime, researchers said. 

The researchers defined late-night as 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. They examined crime around 26 bars and taverns that had their hours changed by the legislation ,and compared them to 41 establishments that had no change in hours in neighborhoods with similar demographics.

“Our study provides new and compelling evidence that supports the World Health Organization’s three 'best buys' to reduce alcohol attributable morbidity and mortality through reducing availability of alcoholic beverages, along with increasing prices via taxation and banning alcohol marketing,” says study senior author Ziming Xuan. “These findings highlight the critical importance of population-based alcohol policies in violence prevention.”

SEE MORE: Last call for Drizly: Uber is shutting down its alcohol delivery app

The researchers claim that the reduction in crime saved the city over $18 million a year. They said that the earlier closures had a larger impact on homicides. 

One caveat is that the study was conducted amid a rise in crime associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers noted a dramatic increase in crime in other neighborhoods while crime in the Old East area remained around the same.

“Changing the hours of service and sale of alcohol is a relatively simple intervention,” said study co-author David Jernigan. “Yet our findings suggest that, even in a period like the COVID-19 pandemic when alcohol consumption was rising, this policy has great promise for other cities and neighborhoods seeking to prevent and reduce crime.”  


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