Alcohol Availability and Crime in Post-Disaster Christchurch, New Zealand

Implications for Health in Cities

Authored by: Gregory D. Breetzke , Amber L. Pearson

Handbook of Global Urban Health

Print publication date:  May  2019
Online publication date:  May  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138206250
eBook ISBN: 9781315465456
Adobe ISBN:


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The Canterbury Earthquakes comprised a series of large seismic events that struck the Canterbury region of the South Island of New Zealand between September 2010 and February 2011. The physical effects of the Canterbury Earthquakes on Christchurch, the country’s second largest city, were significant, with a wide range of structural damage, resulting in the closure and relocation of a large number of businesses including point of sale of alcohol outlets. The social effects of the earthquakes on Christchurch were also significant, with anecdotal reports of an increase in crime and decrease in the mental and physical health and wellbeing of residents. The aim of the present study was to explore the associations between alcohol access and recorded crime, and the potential implications for health, utilizing pre- and post-disaster data from Christchurch. We find that the spatial patterning of alcohol outlets changed dramatically in the aftermath of the Canterbury Earthquakes, with alcohol outlet densities decreasing in the central city but increasing in neighbourhoods occupied by younger, single, foreign residents and those who were relatively new to the neighbourhood. Importantly, we found how crime has ‘followed’ alcohol outlet migration into the suburbs, with our results showing an increase in the change in crime rates in neighbourhoods which experienced changes in alcohol outlet densities. The implications of these results in terms of the health and wellbeing of Christchurch residents and possibly other disaster-affected cities are discussed, and opportunities for future research are outlined.

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