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Alcohol and Crime

U.S. Department of Justice

ADVANCE FOR RELEASE AT 4:30 P.M. EDT               BJS
SUNDAY, APRIL 5, 1998                     202/307-0784


But Alcohol-Related Deaths and Consumption in Decline                  

     WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Although alcohol consumption
and alcohol-related deaths are in decline, alcohol
abuse is still linked to a large percentage of criminal
offenses, the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice
Statistics (BJS) said today.  
     Almost four in 10 violent crimes involve alcohol,
according to the crime victim, as do four in 10 fatal
motor vehicle accidents.  And about four in 10 criminal
offenders report that they were using alcohol at the
time of their offense.
     About one in five victims of alcohol-related
violence (about 500,000 victims annually) report
financial losses totaling more than $400 million.  When
injured in alcohol-related violence, the average victim
experienced a $1,500 out-of-pocket medical expense.
     The rate of all alcohol-induced deaths fell 19
percent between 1980 and 1994, noted the report on
alcohol and crime, citing National Center for Health
Statistics data.
     "We also have seen recent declines in violence
between current and former spouses, boyfriends and
girlfriends," commented BJS Director Jan M. Chaiken. 
"This is the kind of violence most likely to involve
alcohol abuse."  
     Two-thirds of the violent crime victims who were
attacked by an intimate--a current or former spouse or
a boyfriend or girl 
friend--report that alcohol had been a factor.
     Among spouse violence victims, three out of four
incidents were reported to have involved alcohol use by
the offender.
     The arrest rate for driving under the influence of
alcohol has fallen by 24 percent since 1990, and during
the last decade the number of highway fatalities blamed
on alcohol has dropped by about 7,000 a year--from
24,000 such deaths in 1986 to 17,126 fatalities in
1996--a 29 percent decrease.
     In 1996 local law enforcement agencies made an
estimated 1,467,300 arrests nationwide for driving
under the influence of alcohol, compared to 1.9 million
such arrests during the peak year 1983, when 33 states
had a minimum age for alcohol consumption less than 21
years old.
     Subsequently, all states changed the minimum legal
drinking age to 21 years old, pursuant to federal
highway funding legislation.
     In 1980 men and women younger than 21 accounted
for 10 percent of all licensed drivers, but 15 percent
of those arrested for driving under the influence.  In
1996 people younger than 21 accounted for 7 percent of
the licensed drivers and 8 percent of those arrested
for driving under the influence.
     An estimated 80 percent of U.S. residents 12 years
old and older have used alcohol at least once, and 50
percent describe themselves as current drinkers.  
National estimates of the annual per capita consumption 
of alcohol have declined 10 percent since 1990--from 40 
gallons per person to 36 gallons.
     The most commonly used definition of intoxication
is 0.10 grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood, known
as the blood alcohol concentration or BAC.  Among state
prisoners who reported drinking at the time of the
offense for which they were incarcerated, the BAC was
estimated to be 0.28 for inmates convicted of violent
crime, 0.30 for those convicted of property crimes,
0.23 for those convicted of public order offenses and 
0.19 for those convicted of drug offenses.             
     The study, "Alcohol and Crime, An Analysis of
National Data on the Prevalence of Alcohol Involvement
in Crime" (NCJ-168632) was prepared for the National
Symposium on Alcohol Abuse and Crime, which opened here
today.  It was written by BJS statistician Lawrence A.
Greenfeld.  Single copies may be obtained from the BJS
fax-on-demand system by dialing 301/519-5550, listening
to the menu, and selecting document number 102 or by
calling the BJS Clearinghouse at 1-800/732-3277.  BJS's
home page address on the Internet is:
     Additional criminal justice materials can be
obtained from the Office of Justice Programs homepage

After hours contact:  Stu Smith at 301/983-9354 
Date Published: April 5, 1998