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State and Local Law Enforcement Agency Efforts to Prevent Sales to Obviously Intoxicated Patrons

Abstract

Alcohol sales to intoxicated patrons are illegal and may lead to public health issues such as traffic crashes and violence. Over the past several decades, considerable effort has been made to reduce alcohol sales to underage persons but less attention has been given to the issue of sales to obviously intoxicated patrons. Studies have found a high likelihood of sales to obviously intoxicated patrons (i.e., overservice), but little is known about efforts by enforcement agencies to reduce these sales. We conducted a survey of statewide alcohol enforcement agencies and local law enforcement agencies across the US to assess their strategies for enforcing laws prohibiting alcohol sales to intoxicated patrons at licensed alcohol establishments. We randomly sampled 1,631 local agencies (1,082 participated), and surveyed all 49 statewide agencies that conduct alcohol enforcement. Sales to obviously intoxicated patrons were reported to be somewhat or very common in their jurisdiction by 55 % of local agencies and 90 % of state agencies. Twenty percent of local and 60 % of state agencies reported conducting enforcement efforts to reduce sales to obviously intoxicated patrons in the past year. Among these agencies, fewer than half used specific enforcement strategies on at least a monthly basis to prevent overservice of alcohol. Among local agencies, enforcement efforts were more common among agencies that had a full-time officer specifically assigned to carry out alcohol enforcement efforts. Enforcement of laws prohibiting alcohol sales to obviously intoxicated patrons is an underutilized strategy to reduce alcohol-related problems, especially among local law enforcement agencies.

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Acknowledgments

This study was supported by a Grant from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (R01 AA017873; Darin J. Erickson, Principal Investigator).

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Correspondence to Kathleen M. Lenk.

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Lenk, K.M., Toomey, T.L., Nelson, T.F. et al. State and Local Law Enforcement Agency Efforts to Prevent Sales to Obviously Intoxicated Patrons. J Community Health 39, 339–348 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10900-013-9767-9

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Keywords

  • Alcohol
  • Enforcement
  • Overservice
  • Sales to intoxicated patrons