Many previous studies have suggested a link between alcohol outlets and assaultive violence rates. In 1997 the City of New Orleans adopted a series of policies, e.g., increased license fee, additional enforcement staff, and expanded powers for the alcohol license board. The policies were specifically enacted to address the proliferation of problem alcohol outlets believed to be the source of a variety of social problems including assaultive violence. In this research, we evaluate the impact of a city level policy in New Orleans to address the problem alcohol outlets and their influence on assaultive violence. The spatial association between rates of assaultive violence at the census tract level (n=170) over a ten year period raises a challenge in statistical analysis. To meet this challenge we developed a hierarchical change-point model that controls for important covariates of assaultive violence and accounts for unexplained spatial and temporal variability. While our model is somewhat complex, its hierarchical Bayesian analysis is accessible via the WinBUGS software program. Keeping other effects fixed, the implementation of the new city level policy was associated with a decrease in the positive association between census tract level rates of assaultive violence and alcohol outlet density. Comparing several candidate change-point models using the DIC criterion, the positive association began decreasing the year of the policy implementation. The magnitude of the association continued to decrease for roughly two years and then stabilized. We also created maps of the fitted assaultive violence rates in New Orleans, as well as spatial residual maps which, together with Moran's I's, suggest that the spatial variation of the data is well accounted for by our model. We reach the conclusion that the implementation of the policy is associated with a significant decrease in the positive relationship between assaultive violence and the off-sale alcohol outlet density.
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