Pub closures can lead to more crime in some areas, Northumbria University research shows

New research led by Northumbria University has highlighted a link between pub closures and a rise in rural crime.

A new study, led by the university’s Professor Ignazio Cabras and published in the journal European Planning Studies, suggests that “recent pub closures may have contributed to severing community ties” and thus played a role in rising crime in rural areas. The figures show this impact is lessened in urban areas where there may be a “weaker level of community cohesion and a lack of resources to support formal policing”.

The study used data collected from 375 local authorities around the UK between 2003 and 2018, and looked in particular at the density of pubs at a local levels and the differences this made in the rate and type of crimes recorded, and how this differs between rural and urban areas.

Lead author Professor Ignazio Cabras hopes the finding will support the creation of improved policing and crime prevention measures. He said there were three key findings.

These were that rural areas experience a much lower incident of crime related to pub numbers compared to in more urban areas, that there are specific trends when it comes to the kind of crime reported around pubs in different areas, and that the broad decline in pub numbers across the UK could have a significant impact on policing and public safety.

The professor said: “Our research work confirms the importance of place-based strategies in tackling social issues such as crime levels based on the presence of pubs. As the association between crime and pubs is multi-faceted, the formation of formal and informal policing (or lack thereof) gravitating around pubs plays a crucial role in whether the presence of pubs acts as a deterrent or an enabler of criminal behaviour.

“Given the paucity of research targeting the effects of pub closures on local communities, our study provides a fresh and timely contribution to the literature. It also provides a venue for new research aimed at better understanding the potential of pubs in terms of generating social capital, strengthening community cohesion, and preventing crime.”

Greg Mulholland, campaign director for the Campaign for Pubs added: “Pubs play a very important role in our communities and our society and policy makers and others underestimate the many ways they do this. Well run pubs are important focal points and help communities come together and address a variety of issues, including dealing with crime and anti-social behaviour.

“Good pubs have very strong reputations locally and command respect from people and without them areas lose some of their social cohesion, which has many knock off effects.

“This is an important study that shows that pubs are relevant to being able to monitor and track crime and also that the loss of a pub not only takes away a community focal point but also makes it harder to measure do this, yet another negative of communities of losing their local pubs.”

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