Policing Liquor Licensed Premises in Hong Kong Research Proposal

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Best Practices in Policing Alcohol and Licensed Premises

Today, Hong Kong enjoys a free market economy but it is highly dependent on the international trade, finance and tourism sectors for its revenues (Hong Kong 2009). The Mongkok Police District of Hong Kong is the subject of the dissertation (see map at Appendix ____ and District Boundaries as set forth in DC MKDIST'S Standing Order No. 1-01 at Appendix ____). There are currently more than 5,000 liquor licensed premises in Hong Kong, with 396 of them being situated in the Mongkok Police District. The number of bars/pubs, nightclubs and restaurants is 49, 33, and 314, respectively. In addition, Mongkok is an unofficial red-light district in Hong Kong; while the area is home to a number of different triad societies, gang fights for territorial rights are uncommon but the potential for violence exists nevertheless (Chu 2000). In this environment, identifying best practices in policing premises that serve alcohol has assumed new and importance relevance today.

Chapter 2. Literature Review

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Historically, most efforts to regulate the sale of alcohol in order to reduce the corresponding incidence of alcohol-related harms have been based on the view that "less is best"; in other words, the less that alcohol is available the better for public health and safety. The idea that level of alcohol-related harm in a society is closely associated with degree of alcohol availability is sometimes referred to as the "Availability Theory." The major conclusion of a World Health Organization report was that population levels of alcohol-related harm are directly related to the levels of per capita alcohol consumption and, hence, the control of alcohol consumption through restrictions on alcohol availability becomes legitimate and a pressing public health concern.

TOPIC: Research Proposal on Policing Liquor Licensed Premises in Hong Kong Assignment

There are three separate but linked propositions contained within Availability Theory in this regard as follows:

1. The greater the availability of alcohol in a society, the higher the average consumption of its population.

2. The higher the average consumption of a population, then the greater number there will be of excessive drinkers.

3. The greater the number of excessive drinkers in a population, the greater the extent of adverse health and social problems stemming from alcohol use (Heather & Stockwell 2004).

From a contemporary viewpoint, these propositions present a deterministic view that is opposed to many professionals' experiences with alcohol-related regulatory initiatives. In general, the research does not seem to support the concept that greater availability invariably results in greater levels of drinking, and that changes in average drinking levels invariably lead to greater "excessive" drinking and problems, even if in practice they usually do. There remain significant empirical questions regarding these assertions.

The relationships between availability and drinking problems are complex and multifaceted. Greater availability may and may not be related to greater use, and may be related to problems independent of use. Increases in average drinking levels may and may not be related to greater "excessive" drinking. "Excessive" drinking itself may and may not be related to greater problems. What we suggest is that, when viewed from the perspective of contemporary research, each proposition of the theory needs qualification and should be understood as a conditional, not absolute, description of the relationship between drinking and harm.Contemporary research into the relationships of alcohol availability to use and problems has placed the three basic propositions of Availability Theory in a new context. The basic questions asked with regard to these propositions are:

1. What are the mechanisms that relate decreases in availability to decreases in use?

2. Are the effects of changes in availability restricted to "excessive" consumers?

3. Are the greatest health consequences always incurred by "excessive" drinkers?

Modern answers to these questions are as follows:

1. The "full price" of alcohol consists of both its real price and the convenience costs of obtaining this good, and these "full prices" affect levels of use (Grossman, 1988).

2. Changes in availability affect both drinking patterns and routine drinking activities of all consumers (Gruenewald, Millar & Treno, 1993).

3. Traditional definitions of "excessive drinkers" as persons who on average, over all days, drink significant amounts of alcohol (e.g. more than 60g) in fact exclude the many people who experience alcohol-related harm as a consequence of occasional "binges" -- the so-called "prevention paradox" (Kreitman, 1986; Gmel et al., 2001).

It is essential to recognize that this research has changed the entire context in which these scientific issues are discussed. The deterministic sense displayed by the original propositions of Availability Theory has been altered by contingent views of availability's effects. Changes in availability affect drinking only to the degree that they affect the "full price" of alcohol; this need not always be the case for all consumers (Abbey et al., 1993).

Regulations concerning the availability of alcohol sales, though, may not affect use; however, such regulatory actions may still affect routine drinking activities related to problems; reducing availability at bars and restaurants reduces crashes independent of drinking levels (Gruenewald et al. 1999). Changes in availability may not affect the overall volume of alcohol defined on external criteria as "excessive" but may influence the frequency of high risk or "excessive" drinking occasions. These findings result in the following expansion of the basic propositions of Availability Theory:

1. Greater availability of alcohol in a society will increase the average consumption of its population when such changes reduce the "full price" of alcohol, i.e. The real price of beverages at retail markets plus the convenience costs of obtaining them.

2. Greater availability of alcohol in a society will directly affect alcohol-related harm when such changes affect the distribution of "routine drinking activities"; behaviours drinkers engage in when consuming alcohol (e.g. drinking at bars vs. At home; drinking socially vs. alone).

3. Greater average consumption in a population will be related to increases in drinking among some segments of the population along one or more of the several basic dimensions of drinking; rates of abstention, frequencies of use, quantities consumed and variances in drinking levels.

4. Greater adverse health and social problems stemming from alcohol use will appear across the drinking population, focused in those subpopulations most exposed to risk. These risks will be distributed differently across population subgroups, depending upon differences in routine drinking activities (2, above) and drinking patterns (3, above) (Heather & Stockwell 2004, 217).

The means for controlling alcohol's availability can be usefully divided into those that reduce economic availability and those that reduce physical availability as shown in Table 1 below.

Table 1.

Regulating Availability of Alcohol Sales

Means for Controlling Availability


Economic availability

This is essentially the price of alcoholic drinks as a proportion of disposable income among potential consumers. The retail price of alcohol is directly influenced by levels of taxation, formal and informal controls on drink prices, the costs of production, levels of consumer demand and the cost of any related services supplied along with alcoholic beverages (e.g. live entertainment on licensed premises). The price of alcohol appears to have an influence on level and pattern of consumption and the relationship is mediated by a complex array of other factors.

Physical availability

This is essentially the availability of alcohol in one's physical environment mediated by the likelihood that one will come into contact with these sources of drink. Thus, the physical availability of alcohol is principally determined by local liquor licensing laws and the nature of their enforcement, but may be strongly modified by other aspects of human behavior. Licensing laws may govern permitted hours of sale, persons who may be licensed, numbers and types of outlets, persons to whom alcohol may be sold, types and strengths of alcohol beverages sold, permitted locations of alcohol outlets, the physical characteristics of premises, and the range of other services or products that may be provided. In many instances, how these laws are enforced in practice falls short of both the intention and the letter of the law. In particular, laws regarding service to underage and intoxicated customers are frequently ignored and local outlet densities grow disproportionately large as outlets concentrate along geographic boundaries between wealthy and poor areas and are "grand-fathered" into urban planning areas.

Source: Heather & Stockwell 218.

Consequently, it is highly important to understand regulatory systems and strategies as well as the legal context when considering the extent of alcohol's availability. It is also important to recognize that the effects of physical availability are, unlike beverage prices, local rather than global. Alcohol beverage prices are relatively homogenous with respect to the physical geography of nations, states, provinces, counties, communities and neighbourhoods (e.g. varying by a factor of 83 within markets and less than 1.1 between neighbourhoods in a recent community-based study in the United States (Gruenewald et al. 1999).

Beverage availability, on the other hand, is typically quite homogenous on large scales (e.g. At the state level in the United States); however, it is heterogeneous at the smaller scales of communities and neighbourhoods (in the same study, varying by a factor of 300). As a result, while it is a simple… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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