University review confirms links between alcohol pricing and crime

Increasing the price of alcohol is associated with reductions in crime, according to a team of experts from the University of Sheffield, who have carried out a systematic review of published research.

Experts from the University's School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) and the School of Law carried out a rapid evidence assessment of all published studies on the direct effects of alcohol pricing and taxation on alcohol-related crime. International evidence from the review was consistent with previous UK forecasts that levels of crime would decrease following tax/price increases.

The independent review sought to provide a timely snapshot of current knowledge on the effects of alcohol pricing on crime to inform Home Office policy-making, and follows previous work for the Department of Health on the effects of alcohol pricing on health and wider social harm. It revealed that the majority of studies found links between increases in the pricing of alcohol and reductions in overall crime rates as well as violent crime. There was also some evidence that increases in alcohol price are associated with reductions in rates of sexual assault and criminal damage.

However, the review also revealed that there is inconclusive evidence on what happens when prices fall or taxes are lowered: in some studies, price falls led to increases in crime, but in others they did not. There were also very few studies on the effect of price increases or decreases on homicide, domestic violence, robbery and anti-social behaviour, and more research is needed for these types of crimes before firm conclusions can be drawn. The majority of studies included in the review were from the US and Scandinavia, with relatively fewer UK-based studies.

Professor Petra Meier, from the University's School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR), said: "This rapid evidence assessment on alcohol and crime adds to our previous work on alcohol and health in piecing together a fairly consistent picture of harm related to low-price alcohol. Taken together, the evidence shows that following price increases, levels of overall and violent crime tend to decrease.

"There is also a large evidence base showing that raising prices leads to decreased drinking, and that lower alcohol consumption tends to be associated with less alcohol-related health and crime harm. However our research also points to possible contextual factors that may influence the effectiveness of alcohol pricing policies. We hope that our recently-funded research programme from the Medical Research Council will help us to advance the field further."

Notes for Editors: The Government's review of pricing and associated research reports can be found at the link below.

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