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Home » Uncategorized » Cocktails and crime, do these things mix in Las Cruces?

Cocktails and crime, do these things mix in Las Cruces?


Summit unveils results of mapping alcohol outlets in relation to crimes

Friday, February 8, 2019; Las Cruces, NM:  Does the purveying of alcohol increase the reports of certain crime in a neighborhood? That’s the question Unified Prevention (UP!) Coalition for Doña Ana County attempted to answer with a recent project to map alcohol outlets and calls for service to law enforcement to discover if cocktails and crimes mix in Las Cruces.

The results of the Coalition’s efforts were unveiled to an audience of over 75 service providers, activists and community leaders at an Alcohol Outlet Summit held in January, funded by the Paseo Del Norte Health Foundation’s Shift+ initiative.

The New Mexico State University’s (NMSU) Spatial Applications Research Center (SpARC) partnered on the project and mapped by geo-code 164 businesses with mix use alcohol licenses in Las Cruces. The sales outlets included on-premise alcohol sales, like restaurants or bars, and off-premise sales where alcohol is sold but must be consumed off-site like grocery or liquor stores.  Distributors were also mapped to identify where they are located geographically. 

The mapped results were then overlaid with community calls to law enforcement for select crimes that usually are related to alcohol consumption like vagrancy, thefts, DWIs, harassment and domestic violence. Mesilla Valley Dispatch Authority provided the details for the 34,601 calls for service and their locations during the study period from January 2017 through April 2018. Finally, six areas where alcohol outlet clustered in proximity to excessive calls for service identified as “hotspots” within the Las Cruces city limits.

SpARC GIS Technician Sara Aristizabal inputted the data to create the final maps under the direction of Dr. Christopher P. Brown, an NMSU associate professor of Geography and Director of SpARC.  Aristizabal said, “It was interesting because certain types of calls for service were clustered near alcohol sales outlets, this became apparent with reports of vagrancy.”

A previous study of Las Cruses’ alcohol outlets found a correlation with increased alcohol outlet density to reported violent crimes. The study was conducted in 2015 by Naomi Greene, a second-year doctoral student in the Department of Behavioral Health at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “There was a relationship in increased alcohol availability to violent crime that was not due to chance or coincidence…the same correlation was found in Las Cruces, this suggests the two are related,” said Greene.

Greene’s original mapping project was conducted when she was serving as a CSTE Applied Epidemiology Fellow for the New Mexico Department of Health. Her project inspired UP! to broaden the scope to calls for service related to alcohol use, instead of Greene’s mapping of violent crimes. UP! felt that calls for service were a better gauge of residents’ perceived violation of social norms than acts of violent crimes.

UP! Coalition went a step further than Green’s project to gather qualitative data as well by survey residents and business owners adjacent to the identified hot spots, then visited 33 of the off-premise alcohol outlets, mostly convenient stores and gas stations, to assess the sites. The assessments included if alcohol was displayed at a child’s eye level, was identification asked for during a sale to assure the purchaser wasn’t a minor, and parking lot lighting to increase customer safety when arriving or leaving the premises.

“We don’t want to stop the sales of alcohol,” said Marisol Diaz, UP! Coalition Director. “We want to work with neighborhoods to increase residents’ safety, which can be done through environmental and policy efforts like increasing lighting at businesses to dissuade vagrancy or limiting what alcohol can be sold.” 

Proposing such nuisances-orientated ordinates and performance standards can make a community safer.  “For example, stores that sell ‘minis’ [small bottles, typically 50ml] are associated with more violent crimes occurring around their establishments,” noted presenter Dr. Pamela Trangenstein, an Associate Scientists at the Alcohol Research Group and a post-doctoral fellow at the University of California at Berkley and Boston University School of Public Health.

Dr. Brown discussed the next steps possible with the maps created by the project, “These maps can be used by neighborhoods to advocate for policies for making business and homes less vulnerable to crime.”

The UP! Coalition will now be moving toward increasing community knowledge regarding the impact of alcohol in their neighborhoods and transforming that into data to describe their own lived experience.  This effort will aim to empower parents and others to discuss changes they would like to see, related to alcohol, in their own neighborhoods with elected officials.  UP! will be hosting, in collaboration with the New Mexico Data Collaborative, a series of community data trainings, data seminars, and story mapping sessions throughout Doña Ana County to engage residents in opportunities to advocate for their communities as it relates to alcohol related issues and other substance use and abuse issues.

UP! is a coalition of leaders from diverse backgrounds of the community, like law enforcement, civic, educational, charitable and governmental sectors, dedicated to implement data driven strategies to reduce underage and binge drinking in Doña Ana County. UP! Coalition is a program of the Center for Health Innovation, which is designated as New Mexico’s Public Health Institute.

Read the brief summary of the Alcohol Outlet Density by clicking here.

For more information contact Marisol Diaz at (575) 597-0042 or email: