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An investigation into the environmental impact of off-license premises on residential neighbourhoods . Dr Alasdair Forsyth Glasgow Caledonian University. SSA Annual Symposium 2010 Session 4, November 12 th Park Inn, York. Licensed Trade Research & Disorder.

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An investigation into the environmental impact of off-license premises on residential neighbourhoods

Dr Alasdair Forsyth

Glasgow Caledonian University

SSA Annual Symposium 2010

Session 4, November 12th

Park Inn, York

licensed trade research disorder
Licensed Trade Research & Disorder
  • “A large amount of research has been conducted on the selling of alcohol in pubs and clubs, along with a considerable amount of work on violence and disorder and its relationship with alcohol. However, investigations of the exact connections between where alcohol is purchased in the community setting and the effects are limited.” (Pattoni et al, 2007, p.30)
local off sales suspect or stereotype
Local Off-sales: ‘Suspect’ or Stereotype?
  • “In Cumnock [ex coal-mining community], Ministers were told to applause from the audience that ‘off-licenses’ were the single largest contributory factor [in anti-social behaviour]” (‘Daniels Report’, p2, 2004)
  • “Very often the stock carried by ‘suspect’ establishments and the way it is marketed is quite clearly aimed at youngsters with cheap, fortified wines, strong cider and ‘alcopops’ being very much to the fore.” (‘Daniels Report’, p17, 2004)
study area averageburgh
Study Area: ‘Averageburgh’
  • Scottish Urban-Rural Classification defines ‘Averageburgh’ as an “other urban area” (10,000 -125,000 population)
  • Alcohol-related hospital admissions around national rate
    • Youth admissions were also close to the national average
  • 8 post-war housing social schemes with shop(s) = Study Area
    • Combined population circa 23,500 residents
  • 30 Data Census Zones (made up the 8 schemes / Study Area)
    • Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD, 2006 ) mean rank 2,498 of 6,505 (SD = 1,124)
    • 11% of deprived side of SIMD mean (reflecting community shops)
community off sales in averageburgh
Community Off-sales in‘Averageburgh’
  • 17 community shops in (8 schemes of) the Study Area
    • 13 licensed – only 4 of unlicensed, comprising:
      • One doubled as a post-office, One doubled as a petrol station
      • Only two were (unlicensed) convenience stores only
    • 2 major superstores located just outside the Study Area
  • Despite each shop only being visited for a few minutes (daytime), the following was observed:
    • One incident of ‘shoulder tapping’ by under-18s (an undercover police officer was already in the shop)
    • One instance of refusal of service (but for ‘crack’ ingredients)
  • Eight shops (6 licensed) agreed to a staff interview (pilot study)
alcohol other drug detritus survey
Alcohol (& other Drug) Detritus Survey
  • Visual Method (VM) Digital Photography:
    • Only taken in residential areas (none at parks, schools, waste-ground, transport nodes, workplaces or the town centre)
  • Inclusions:
    • All brand-identifiable alcohol products (i.e. bottles, cans, etc. and their remains)
    • Any potential illegal drug-related litter
  • Exclusions:
    • All non-brand identifiable bottles, cans, etc.
    • Tobacco, soft drinks and other litter
alcohol detritus visually recorded
Alcohol detritus visually recorded

From 1,239 Photographs:

  • 1,406items of alcohol-related detritus brand identified
    • 194 intact glass bottles (with label or cap present)
    • 393 smashed glass bottles (with label and /or cap present)
    • 431 bottle tops (i.e. no glass present)
    • 25 plastic bottles (including 12 spirit miniatures)
    • 324 metal cans
    • 18 labels (mainly paper)
    • 19 packaging (mainly cardboard boxes)
mapping alcohol detritus outlets in hillside
Mapping alcohol detritus (outlets in ‘Hillside’)


Licensed shop

Unlicensed shop

Detritus location

DZ= Data Zone

ranked by deprivation (SIMD) from 1 (most) – 30 (least deprived)

street advertising
Street ‘Advertising’

Products Brands

1Lager (41.1%) Buckfast tonic wine (35.1%)

2 Tonic Wine (35.1%)Stella Artois lager (9.5%)

3 Vodka (6.3%) Tennents* (9.3%)

4Alcopops (3.3%) Miller lager (6.5%)

5 [amber] Cider (3.3%) Glen’s vodka (5.6%)

6 White Cider (3.1%) Budweiser lager (5.6%)

7 Super Lager (2.1%) Carling lager (4.1%)

8 Fruit flav. Beverage (1.3%) Strongbow* (3.5%)

9 Spirit Miniatures (0.9%) Smirnoff* (2.8%)

  • Whisky (0.9%) Grolsch lager (1.3%)

* Indicates more than one product in brand (e.g. Tennents lager, super-lager and Special ale)

Note : Buckfast tonic wine was not stocked in either superstore yet this one product yielded 54.0% of all glass photos (and was significantly more likely to be smashed)

not just scottish housing schemes
Not just Scottish housing ‘schemes’

Vauxhall, London, Monday 13/09/10

drug litter visually recorded
Drug Litter Visually Recorded
  • Only three(potential) instances of drug-related litter
    • 2 improvised smoking devices (both alongside Buckfast glass bottles)
    • 1 cluster of medicine bottles (also alongside Buckfast glass bottles)
    • 0 ‘sharps’ - i.e. no needles and/or syringes
    • (compared to 587 glass bottles - 67.0% of which were already smashed)
the drinks in parts we did not reach
The drinks in parts we did not reach

Only 2 instances of this ‘suspect brand’ were photographed

complementary research evidence 1 street drinking study
Complementary research evidence 1Street drinking study

Contemporaneous AERC funded research found Buckfast tonic wine to be the beverage of choice amongst male youth street drinkers and Lambriniperry to be the beverage of choice among females!

So why did this research yield 494 photos of Buckfast detritus yet only 2 of Lambrini?

I: “So what do you prefer when you drink outside?”

All: “Lambrini! Lambrini!” P2: “We’re Lambrini Girls!” [P1]:It’s cheap, it’s a good laugh, it doesn’t get you, you know how you get some alcohol for some people that makes them dead violent. Or it makes them angry or get into a fight or whatever? Lambrini is just, a good light- hearted drink, you can drink it on its own…”[Focus Group #8, City Park]

(Galloway, Forsyth & Shewan, 2007 p63. AERC Report 044)

complementary research evidence 2 every broken bottle has a story
Complementary Research Evidence 2 Every broken bottle has a story

Top 10 (most often) Brands of alcoholBrands consumed by Young

product glass Offenders who drank alcohol

photographed prior to their current offence

Buckfast tonic wine 54.0%* 43.4%

Stella Artois lager 8.0% 2.0%

Glen’s vodka 7.1% 1.0%

Budweiser lager 5.9% 1.0%

Tennents* 0.5% 4.0%

Miller lager 1.5% 3.0%

Carling lager 3.7% 0

Strongbow* 0 3.0%

Grolsch lager 1.7% 0

Smirnoff*1.5% 0

* Indicates brands not products (e.g. Smirnoff Ice alcopop or Smirnoff vodka)

Note : *Buckfast comprised 74.2% (n = 72) of broken bottles with cap attached!

Source: McKinlay, W., Forsyth, A. J. M. & Khan, F. (2009) Alcohol and Violence among Young Male Offenders in Scotland. SPS Occasional Paper No. 1 / 09. Edinburgh: Scottish Prison

complementary evidence peer review
Complementary Evidence (peer review)

“Was any information available on the number of trash receptacles available in each area? These are important items to be mentioned if not included.” (Reviewer #1)

“The authors make several statements such as "appeared to be related" and "appeared to be less important". How were these statements arrived upon, i.e. what type of statistical test was used to determine if importance or relationship of these variables?” (Reviewer #2)

Here (a photo of author’s home street) the Buckfast bottle “appears” to be related to the bus stop as much as the littler bin (maps of bus stops in Study Area corroborated this)

method implications
Method Implications
  • Validation / confirmation via VM:
    • (Photographic) Proof of what was observed (e.g. brands, locations).
    • As illustration of relative nature and extent community safety risk (e.g. jaggedness, environment)
  • In practice this also assisted the research process:
    • Insuring against ‘double counts’ in survey
    • Allowing identification of items to be made post-fieldwork (e.g. in shops or online) such that no brand was left unidentified
    • Photographs created a quantitative dataset (geo-referenced – GPS camera?)
  • VM combines with other methodologies (‘traditional’ social science) including other studies data sets
    • But some reviewers will still ask for a statistical test to prove what can be seen (i.e. the inference has become the reality)
  • Opportunity for rapid appraisal / risk assessments to be made
    • Can re-visit the field any time (e.g. screw-cap data)
    • Raises awareness through visual impact!
raising awareness glass myopia
Raising Awareness: ‘Glass-myopia’
  • Illegal drug litter not found to be a problem (objectively)
  • Alcohol-related litter awareness needed (and weapon potential)
  • Need for more plastic bottles (especially screw-cap)
  • Many ‘suspect’ products (e.g. cheap fortified wine, white cider, alcopops or Lambriniare not as problematic as lager or vodka (i.e. in residential areas)
  • As well as exposing children to health & safety concerns, the sheer volume of detritus amounts to free viral marketing
which polluter pays
Which Polluter Pays?
  • Difficult to know where detritus originates
    • Supermarket ID polices and designated

security staff may drive ‘marginal’ consumers

towards local shops (hangouts)

  • Demonisation of ‘suspect’ (i.e. local) shops?
    • Supermarket’s economies of scale (e.g. Deep

Discounts) may be pushing local shops to

become dependent on ‘suspect’ beverages

    • Local stores serve less affluent groups, unable to access major superstore, and provide additional community services
  • Wider concern: Those who buy Buckfast from local shops probably make a prior decision to buy, while those who buy shiraz from supermarkets may be more likely to impulse buy during the weekly shop (instead of what from the family budget?)
implications for interventions
Implications for Interventions
  • Deprivation is a better predictor of this alcohol-related environmental incivility than is off-sales outlet (over-)provision in residential communities
  • Current trends (and policy?) favour the business interests of superstores at the expense of individual servers or local shops and their communities
  • This is unfortunate as local off-sales are better equipped to tackle problems (e.g. adult agent purchases) through their “extra pair of eyes” – their community and informal networking
future research off sales servers easy target or ally
Future ResearchOff-sales Servers – Easy Target or Ally?
  • Community licensed shop servers are themselves in the front-line of alcohol-related disorder (i.e. as victims)
  • Severs are ideally placed (at P-o-S) for alcohol-harm reduction / responsibility interventions, however…
  • More emphasis needs to be placed on the industry’s responsibility than the role of individual licensees or severs (e.g. in safer glassware)
questions further information
Questions / Further Information

AERC Online Report:

Forsyth, A.J.M., Davidson, N. & Lennox, J.C. (2007) An investigation into the environmental impact of off-license premises on residential neighbourhoods.


Forsyth, A. J. M. & Davidson, N. (2008) Passing The Buck? Are local licensed grocers to blame for alcohol-related incivility in residential communities? Scottish Journal of Criminal Justice Studies, 14: July, 63–95

Forsyth A. J. M. & Davidson, N. (2010) Community off-sales provision and the presence of alcohol-related detritus in residential neighbourhoods. Health & Place, 16:2, 349-358.

Forsyth A. J. M. & Davidson, N. (2010) The nature and extent of Illegal Drug and Alcohol-related Litter in a Scottish Social Housing Community: A photographic investigation. Addiction Research & Theory. 18:1, 71-83.