Many previous studies have suggested a link between alcohol outlets and assaultive violence. In this paper, we evaluate the impact of the "1992 Civil Unrest" in Los Angeles (which followed the "Rodney King incident"), in which many alcohol outlets were damaged leading to a decrease in alcohol outlet density, on crime. We leverage the natural experiment created by the closure of alcohol outlets in certain areas and not others to explore the effects of alcohol availability on assault crimes at the census tract level. We develop a hierarchical model that controls for important covariates (such as race and socio-economic status) and accounts for unexplained spatial and temporal variability. While our model is somewhat complex, its hierarchical Bayesian analysis is accessible via the WinBUGS software. Our results show that, keeping other effects fixed, the reduction in alcohol availability within a census tract was associated with a drop in the assaultive violence rate at the census tract level. Comparing several dual candidate changepoint models using the Deviance Information Criterion, the drop in assaultive violence rate is best seen as having occurred one year after the reduction in alcohol availability, with the effect lasting roughly five years. We also create maps of the fitted assault rates in Los Angeles, as well as spatial residual maps that suggest various spatially-varying covariates are still missing from our model.
- Assault Trend
- Conditionally Autoregressive (CAR) Model
- Gibbs sampler
- Natural Experiment