A study titled, “Do drinking-age laws have an impact on crime? Evidence from Canada, 2009–2013” and conducted by researchers from the Northern Medical Program at the University of Northern British Columbia was published online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence in August 2016. It indicated how lowering of the MLDA (minimum legal drinking age) in Canada can result in an increase in crime by youth.
For research purposes, the scientists looked at the national police-reported crime figures in Canada from 2009 to 2013. The scientists observed how loosening of restrictions concerning the drinking age was linked to a spike in crime among men by 7.6 percent and 10.4 percent among women. The frequency of physical crimes inclusive of sexual assaults went up by 7.4 percent for males and 14.9 percent for females. Aggravation in minor crimes such as disorderly conduct and property crimes also showed an increase among both male and female young adults.
Elucidating on the observations made during the study, lead author Dr. Russell C. Callaghan, an associate professor in the Northern Medical Program said, “As soon as youth are given legal access to alcohol, there are immediate effects on their involvement in police-reported criminal behaviors. The number of police-reported criminal incidents involving both males and females who have just reached the legal drinking age rises dramatically, a pattern which illustrates the impact that alcohol-related legislation can have on crime including violent crimes and overall public health.”
The study was conducted pursuant to the current recommendations of the MLDA being raised to 19 years while 21 years is considered more appropriate. The authors of the study suggested that raising the drinking age would likely reduce the rate of crime among young people. Emphasizing the findings of the study, Dr. Callaghan added, “Our research provides current information for both Canadian and international policymakers to draw on when considering alcohol policy reform and the effectiveness of MLDA legislation. Drinking-age laws can have major consequences extending to public safety. They are an important part of contemporary alcohol-control policies designed to limit alcohol-related harms among young people, including severe harms which may result from the perpetration of violent crimes.”
The findings of the study are important in the U.S. as more and more Americans are demanding a lowering of MLDA to allow access to alcohol by young adults. While no decision has been made, the observations can be taken into account before the U.S. government decides to make any changes in the MLDA.
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