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Alcohol sales prohibition – meaningful or senseless?
German research team around Prof. Hottenrott from TUM School of Management investigates how effective sales bans on alcoholic beverages can be.
It is a question of economic and social importance whether the availability of alcohol leads to violent crime. Previous studies have shown that the availability of alcohol correlates with the frequency of violent crimes. But does a ban on alcohol also lead to a decrease in violent crime?
Some German researchers have devoted themselves to this question. One of them is Prof. Dr. Hanna Hottenrott from TUM School of Management, who deals primarily with topics from the field of industrial economics and applied micro econometrics. The research team investigate the effects of a late night ban on the sale of alcohol on registered crimes.
In the period from March 2010 to November 2017, the sale of alcohol outside premises (i.e. in petrol stations, kiosks and supermarkets) was prohibited in Baden-Württemberg between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. However, the ban did not affect the sale of alcohol in bars or restaurants. With the introduction of the ban, the state government wanted to combat night crime and alcohol-related health problems. The alcohol policy is aimed at people (especially young people) who buy alcohol in petrol stations, kiosks, etc., late at night to consume outside the premises – often in public places such as market squares, parks or in the immediate vicinity of regulated shops.
However, the government abolished the law in 2017. Why? This also remains a mystery for Prof. Dr. Tim Friehe, one of the researchers from the Philipps-Universität Marburg: “A decision that is definitely to be questioned. Looking at the results of our study, it can be seen that the law achieved the desired effects.”
In 2013, the state government commissioned an evaluation of the law in which the evening and nightly case numbers of police operations before and after the introduction of the law were compared. The results were only conditionally positive. “It remains unclear, however, how the figures would have developed without a sales ban […] perhaps the figures without a sales ban would have been even higher. A control group is needed to evaluate the law”, notes Prof. Friehe. This is exactly what the researchers have implemented in their current study and have shown that the ban on selling alcohol was perhaps not so bad at all. They compared the number of offences in Baden-Württemberg during the prohibition periods with the number of offences in the years before and after the introduction of the law. The focus was primarily on offences that frequently arise from affect: minor and severe bodily injury, robbery and sexual offences. These crimes are more likely to be influenced by a ban on alcohol than, for example, computer crime. In addition, they compared the figures with those of the neighboring state of Hessen, where no comparable ban was introduced. Both studies led to a causal identification of the effects of the sales ban that goes far beyond the evaluation of the state government.
“The evaluation of these factors shows: The cases of minor and severe bodily injury as a result of the ban on selling alcohol fell by up to 11 percent,” reports Prof. Friehe. The ban on selling alcohol did not prevent anyone from getting drunk, but it reached exactly the target group, namely young people who buy their alcohol at kiosks or supermarkets to get drunk in public places or parks. Because if they no longer have an incentive to hang out under the influence of alcohol, there will be fewer conflicts. Against this background, the abolition of the law is a remarkable decision, the research team sums up.
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