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Publication Alcohol and Crime: Data from 2002 to 2008

Howard N. Snyder, Michael R. Rand, William J. Sabol, Ph.D., Bureau of Justice Statistics

September 3, 2010    

Table of Contents

This webpage includes analyses from four data sources: the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), the Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities (SISFCF), and the Survey of Inmates in Local Jails (SILJ). Each data source examines the involvement of alcohol and violent crime from different perspectives and different sets of criminal behaviors. In NIBRS law enforcement officers are asked to record whether alcohol use by victims, offenders, or both was involved in the incident. In NCVS victims are asked to report whether they believe the offenders had consumed alcohol prior to or during the crime. Finally, in the inmate surveys prison and jail inmates are asked if they were using alcohol at the time of the crime for which they were incarcerated.

The NCVS captures the broadest range of crime and includes nonfatal crime reported and not reported to law enforcement. Because the NCVS measures the number of victimizations, it does not restrict identifying an incident as alcohol-involved based on the quantity of alcohol consumed by the offender or the degree of impairment resulting from the alcohol consumption. NIBRS captures fatal and nonfatal crimes reported to law enforcement, which are likely more serious than those captured by NCVS. Victimizations captured by NCVS and offenses known to police reflected in NIBRS may underestimate domestic violence; however, it is not clear which data source provides better information on the characteristics of these crimes.

In NIBRS, officers are asked to indicate whether the crime involved alcohol, drugs, or computers. Because officers use primarily observation and professional judgment to form their assessment and the assessment is unlikely to be based on a chemical or behavioral test for alcohol, the incident is likely to be coded as alcohol-involved only when a victim or an offender shows obvious signs of alcohol impairment. As a result, some alcohol-involved incidents may not be coded as such (e.g., incidents in which the amount of alcohol consumed was relatively small and none of the people involved showed outward signs of alcohol use). In some jurisdictions, officers may also indicate "not applicable" if alcohol, drugs, or computers were not involved in the crime. For the alcohol and crime analysis presented here, BJS treated the absence of an indication that alcohol was involved or a non-applicable response as a non-alcohol-related incident.

In the inmate surveys (SISFCF and SILJ), inmates are asked whether they had been using alcohol prior to or during the commission of the crime leading to their incarceration. The differences in the distribution of violent crimes leading to incarceration, and those reported to the NCVS or NIBRS, may arise from the fact that the prison and jail inmates have been convicted, whereas NIBRS and NCVS include all crimesthose that result in a conviction and those that do not. Also, inmates are more likely to know whether they had been using alcohol prior to or during the crime than either the victims or law enforcement. The SISFCF and the SILJ also provide information on alcohol involvement for non-violent crimes.

These variations in the four data collections are likely to result in different statistics related to alcohol use in violent crimes. While in some ways these differences may lead to confusion about how to interpret the findings of alcohol involvement in crime, when carefully considered they can paint a more complete picture than any single data collection.

For detailed information on alcohol-related incidents, data tables, and figures, click on the topical links below.

National Incident Based Reporting System
1. Sex of offenders
2. Age of offenders
3. Sex of victims
4. Age of victims
5. Age of victims by age of offender
6. Relationship of victim and offender
7. Number of victims
8. Number of offenders
9. Most serious offense
10. Arrests made
11. Percent of incidents involving drugs
12. Presence of weapons
13. Type of injury
14. Type of injury by offender age group
15a. Month violence occurred
15b. Proportion of violent incidents by month
16. Day of the week of incidents
17. Most serious offense on weekdays and weekends
18. Time-of-day incidents
19. Time-of-day incidents known by offender age group
20. Location of incidents known by offender age group
21. Location of incident by day-of-week
National Crime Victimization Survey
22. Victim's perception of alcohol use by offenders
23. Percent of victims involved in alcohol-related violent incidents, by gender of offender
24. Victim injury by offender's perceived alcohol use
25. Crimes by known offenders and perceived alcohol use
26. Percent of victims by location and time of day
27. Violent crimes by victim-offender relationship and perceived alcohol
28. Violent crimes involving weapons and perceived alcohol use
Prison and Jail Inmate Surveys
29. Alcohol use at the time of offense by state and federal prisoners
30. Alcohol use at the time of offense by convicted local jail inmates
Appendix Tables
Appendix table 1. Crimes by type and percentage involving perceived alcohol use
Appendix table 2. Number and percent of violent incidents by state in the 2007 NIBRS sample



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