Russian alcohol restrictions cut crime by 20%, study finds

By on 21/02/2018
Heavy drinking in Russia is linked to high levels of disability, violence and early mortality (Image courtesy: Th1234/Wikimedia).

Russian anti-alcohol policies have produced a significant decline in juvenile and adult crimes, according to new report.

The study, carried out by Russian university the Higher School of Economics (HSE), finds that crime has fallen substantially in areas where local authorities have clamped down on alcohol consumption by raising local tax rates and curtailing licensing hours.

Russia has traditionally suffered from high levels of alcohol consumption, though the report says they are falling – from 11.6 liters of pure alcohol per person in 2007 to 8.1 liters in 2016. A report by the World Health Organisation found that in 2010, Russia had the fourth highest alcohol consumption per capita in the world; nine of the top ten heaviest-drinking countries were former Eastern Bloc nations.

Researchers have also identified a link between alcohol and crime, with more than 20% of all 2017 crimes committed by people who’ve been drinking. Of these crimes, about a sixth were classified as ‘serious’ or ‘very serious’.

In 2006, some regional authorities began restricting the times during which alcohol can be sold in retail outlets and raising alcohol taxes. The HSE’s research finds that cutting retailing times produced a fall in 9-13% fall in adult crime during the first year following the new measures, and in subsequent years those authorities which had introduced restrictions saw crime rates 19-29% lower than those which had not. Similar declines were seen in juvenile crime, which fell by 6-14% in the first year and 8-20% in subsequent years, relative to authorities which had left their rules unchanged.

Raising alcohol taxes, meanwhile, only reduced crime amongst juveniles – but quite successfully: a 1% rise in the retail price of alcohol saw juvenile crime fall by about 14%.

The HSE’s findings mirror research in other countries. Government estimates of the impact of introducing a floor price for alcohol in England and Wales found that increasing the price of a unit of alcohol by 20p (US$0.28) reduced the number of crimes by 12,000/annum. And in the USA, a 10% hike in the price of beer cut violence amongst college students by 4%.

Marina Kolosnitsyna, the author of the HSE study, says the evidence suggests the Russian government should roll out similar policies nationwide. “On the basic of this research we created a new programme, which includes both tax increases and changes in the hours when alcohol can be purchased,” she said. “Later, we would also suggest trying to implement more sophisticated policies towards the population in order to change its consumption habits from strong to light drinks.”

About Anastasya Manuilova

Anastasya Manuilova is an economics reporter for the Russian newspaper Kommersant, covering welfare, labour markets, demographic change and the pharmaceutical industry

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