Researchers looking at the effects of liquor privatization found one in 10 high school-age minors who drink alcohol reported stealing alcohol in the past year.
Julia Dilley, one of the research scientists working on the ongoing project, said prior to privatization a survey asked minors where they would go to find booze.
“So few kids marked ‘stole,’ we took it off (the survey) as an option,” Dilley said.
Vancouver Police Department officials also have reported a surge in liquor-related thefts and said they believe the bulk is being driven by juveniles.
Looking at the first four months of this year, one local Safeway reported seven instances in which spirits were stolen. Walgreens reported three different cases in the same time period.
Dilley, with both Multnomah County and the Oregon Health Authority, is working with Linda Becker, a prevention research manager with Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services. The ongoing study is funded by the Roberts Wood Johnson Foundation to examine the impacts of privatized liquor sales, which voters approved in 2011. A preliminary report was given to the state’s Liquor Control Board on Wednesday.
The researchers also reported an uptick in the number of trips minors on Medicaid were making to the emergency room for alcohol-related reasons post-privatization.
Local officials from Clark County Fire and Rescue and two area hospitals said they have not noticed the trend in this region. But officials did point out it can be difficult to determine if a broken leg has any connection to alcohol, for example.
Dilley said a full report is expected to be released in the next couple of weeks, and the team will continue to work on the research for another year.
The preliminary report notes that there is no systematic way to collect data on alcohol thefts. The researchers used police reports, media reports and surveys from high schoolers and key stakeholders.
Their conclusion was “thefts are a substantial problem resulting in increased spirits access and lost revenue.”
An effort is already underway in Oregon to put a privatization measure on the November ballot.
One goal of the ongoing project, Dilley said, is to serve as a guide for other states That are considering a similar measure.
Researchers want to provide a “real example of what happened to a state when they vote to dismantle this state-controlled system.”