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PLoS One. 2015 Sep 29;10(9):e0139344. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0139344. eCollection 2015.

A Review of the Statistical and Quantitative Methods Used to Study Alcohol-Attributable Crime.

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Spatial Pattern Analysis and Research Lab, Department of Geography, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.


Modelling the relationship between alcohol consumption and crime generates new knowledge for crime prevention strategies. Advances in data, particularly data with spatial and temporal attributes, have led to a growing suite of applied methods for modelling. In support of alcohol and crime researchers we synthesized and critiqued existing methods of spatially and quantitatively modelling the effects of alcohol exposure on crime to aid method selection, and identify new opportunities for analysis strategies. We searched the alcohol-crime literature from 1950 to January 2014. Analyses that statistically evaluated or mapped the association between alcohol and crime were included. For modelling purposes, crime data were most often derived from generalized police reports, aggregated to large spatial units such as census tracts or postal codes, and standardized by residential population data. Sixty-eight of the 90 selected studies included geospatial data of which 48 used cross-sectional datasets. Regression was the prominent modelling choice (n = 78) though dependent on data many variations existed. There are opportunities to improve information for alcohol-attributable crime prevention by using alternative population data to standardize crime rates, sourcing crime information from non-traditional platforms (social media), increasing the number of panel studies, and conducting analysis at the local level (neighbourhood, block, or point). Due to the spatio-temporal advances in crime data, we expect a continued uptake of flexible Bayesian hierarchical modelling, a greater inclusion of spatial-temporal point pattern analysis, and shift toward prospective (forecast) modelling over small areas (e.g., blocks).

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