Crime & Alcoholic Beverage Outlets

A large and growing body of research has documented a strong relationship between crime and alcoholic beverage outlets.  If you’re concerned about a proposed convenience store or other outlet selling beer, wine or liquor (whiskey, etc.) then contact CEDS at or 410-654-3021.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation lists the following benefits of Alcohol outlet density restrictions:

  • Reduced excessive drinking,
  • Reduced crime,
  • Reduced underage drinking,
  • Reduced intimate partner violence,
  • Reduced child maltreatment,
  • Reduced suicide, and
  • Reduced gun violence.

In this webpage we provide a summary of the research and strategies that have allowed communities throughout the U.S. to more responsibly manage new alcohol outlets without jeopardizing public health and safety.

Crime & Alcohol Research

CEDS compiled a review of scientific studies relevant to the potential effect of convenience stores with off-sale (to be consumed elsewhere) alcohol sales on crime and public health.  The review can be downloaded at:

The author of the review – CEDS president Richard Klein – has no particular expertise in this subject area.  The review is our interpretation of research findings most applicable to proposed convenience stores near neighborhoods.  Clicking on each blue title in the review will take you to the actual paper.  We also included the abstract so you can judge the accuracy of our interpretation.

The intent of the review is to provide neighborhood residents with a starting point for a discussion of the science regarding alcohol beverage sales and neighborhood safety.  CEDS or our clients contacted many of the researchers who conducted these studies to confirm we accurately interpreted their findings.

These studies show a positive relationship between crime as well as adverse health effects and the number outlets selling alcohol for consumption elsewhere (off-sale) in a given area.  This is particularly true for low-income and other stressed communities.

The gist of the research is that allowing off-sale of alcoholic beverages at a proposed convenience store may increase crime and other adverse health effects, especially if the store is open 24/7.  One study indicated that the presence of an off-sale, 24/7 establishment:

“may attract people at increased risk for involvement with violent crime.” 

In another study, researchers concluded:

“Children with an alcohol outlet on the route to school were more likely to be offered alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs as well as be exposed to drug selling and seeing people using drugs.”  

Again, the negative effects of alcohol outlets was found to be greatest in stressed neighborhoods.  However, it is probably safe to assume adverse effects become more likely in all neighborhoods as the number of alcohol outlets increase.

Managing New Alcohol Outlets To Minimize Adverse Effects

Some statescounties and cities prohibit alcohol sales within a thousand feet of a school, daycare center, park, or other locations frequented by children.  You should check your local zoning laws to learn if a similar measure would protect your neighborhood from a new alcohol outlet.

A number of states also place a population based limit on the number of establishments selling alcoholic beverages.  In California the limit is one per 2500 residentsIndiana has three categories of liquor licenses with one each allowed per 1500 residents which could be as many as one license per 500 people.  A 2014 publication lists 18 states with population based density restrictions.  However, this publication shows the Indiana limit as one per 3500 people, not the current one per 1500 resident restriction.

The following sources provide guidance on restricting alcohol outlet density:

Protecting Your Neighborhood From New Alcohol Outlets

The most likely new alcohol outlet is a proposed convenience store that would sell beer or wine.  Usually the proposed convenience store will also sell gas.  In fact, gasoline accounts for 61% of all convenience store revenue and alcohol was the third leading in-convenience-store sales category as of 2018.

The CEDS gas station and convenience store webpage provides extensive advice for guiding new c-stores to locations where impacts will be minimal.  We recently helped the Fresno Healthy Neighborhoods Alliance win a law that doubled the separation distance required between alcohol outlets and schools.  Other CEDS gas station-convenience stores victories are described at:

If you’re concerned about a proposed convenience store or other outlet selling beer, wine or liquor (whiskey, etc.) then contact CEDS at or 410-654-3021.  There’s no charge for our first discussion of strategy options.