Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Testing the impact of local alcohol licencing policies on reported crime rates in England
  1. F De Vocht1,2,
  2. J Heron1,2,
  3. R Campbell1,2,
  4. M Egan1,3,
  5. J D Mooney4,
  6. C Angus1,5,
  7. A Brennan1,5,
  8. M Hickman1,2
  1. 1NIHR School for Public Health Research (SPHR), Bristol, UK
  2. 2School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  3. 3Department of Health Services Research and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  4. 4Health Sciences and Well-being Research Group, University of Sunderland, Sunderland, UK
  5. 5ScHARR, School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr F de Vocht, School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Canynge Hall, 39 Whatley Road, Bristol BS8 2PS, UK; frank.devocht{at}


Background Excessive alcohol use contributes to public nuisance, antisocial behaviour, and domestic, interpersonal and sexual violence. We test whether licencing policies aimed at restricting its spatial and/or temporal availability, including cumulative impact zones, are associated with reductions in alcohol-related crime.

Methods Reported crimes at English lower tier local authority (LTLA) level were used to calculate the rates of reported crimes including alcohol-attributable rates of sexual offences and violence against a person, and public order offences. Financial fraud was included as a control crime not directly associated with alcohol abuse. Each area was classified as to its cumulative licensing policy intensity for 2009–2015 and categorised as ‘passive’, low, medium or high. Crime rates adjusted for area deprivation, outlet density, alcohol-related hospital admissions and population size at baseline were analysed using hierarchical (log-rate) growth modelling.

Results 284 of 326 LTLAs could be linked and had complete data. From 2009 to 2013 alcohol-related violent and sexual crimes and public order offences rates declined faster in areas with more ‘intense’ policies (about 1.2, 0.10 and 1.7 per 1000 people compared with 0.6, 0.01 and 1.0 per 1000 people in ‘passive’ areas, respectively). Post-2013, the recorded rates increased again. No trends were observed for financial fraud.

Conclusions Local areas in England with more intense alcohol licensing policies had a stronger decline in rates of violent crimes, sexual crimes and public order offences in the period up to 2013 of the order of 4–6% greater compared with areas where these policies were not in place, but not thereafter.


This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt and build upon this work, for commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited. See:

View Full Text

Statistics from


  • Twitter Follow Colin Angus at @victimofmaths. Follow Frank de Vocht at @frankdevocht.

  • Contributors FDV conceived of the study. FDV, CA and JDM obtained and linked the data used in this study. FDV, JH and MH established the methodology, with subsequent input from all the other authors. FDV and JH conducted the statistical analyses with inputs from MH and CA. FDV wrote the first draft, and all the authors reviewed this and provided inputs. All the authors read and approved the final version.

  • Funding This work was funded by the National Institute for Health Research School for Public Health Research (NIHR SPHR). NIHR SPHR is a partnership between the Universities of Sheffield, Bristol, Cambridge, Exeter and UCL; The London School for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; the LiLaC collaboration between the Universities of Liverpool and Lancaster and Fuse; and The Centre for Translational Research in Public Health, a collaboration between Newcastle, Durham, Northumbria, Sunderland and Teesside Universities.

  • Disclaimer The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement All data are publicly available as described in the manuscript.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.