SRPH Faculty to study Alcohol-Related Violence

September 23, 2011

Dennis Gorman, Ph.D.

Daikwon Han, Ph.D.

Qi Zheng, Ph.D.

Faculty at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health department of epidemiology and biostatistics have received $378,009 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to develop and apply geospatial analysis and computational agent-based models to study the relationship between alcohol outlet densities and violent crime.

Dennis Gorman, Ph.D., Daikwon Han, Ph.D., and Qi Zheng, Ph.D. will study the introduction of off-premise alcohol outlets (e.g., grocery stores, convenience stores) in Lubbock, Texas in September 2009 to validate theoretically-grounded agent-based models developed using archival data from the previous five years.  Prior to September 2009, the sale of alcohol for off-premise consumption was prohibited within Lubbock city limits.  Within a year of this prohibition being lifted, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission had issued more than 150 off-premise licenses.

The change in alcohol availability provides an opportunity to develop computer-generated agent-based simulations of violent crime in Lubbock and to assess whether these can reproduce, and indeed predict, empirical spatial patterns of crime within the city with sufficient accuracy.  Essentially, the project will involve a comparison of the findings from experimenting with alcohol outlet density in a virtual Lubbock created using spatial and computational methods with the findings from the natural experiment with outlet density that has occurred in the actual city.

The application of such spatial and computational models to this policy issue has the potential to further our understanding of the social and environmental etiologies of alcohol-related violence within communities.

— Rae Lynn Mitchell