Thursday, January 03, 2013

'America's real criminal element: Lead'

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones has an essay with the same title as this post articulating one of the most robust among many competing hypotheses regarding the remarkable drop in US crime rates over the last 20 years: That it correlates with the presence of lead (Pb) in the the environment. Concluded Drum, provocatively, "If you gave me the choice, right now, of spending $20 billion less on prisons and cops and spending $20 billion more on getting rid of lead, I'd take the deal in a heartbeat."

The theory has been around for a number of years but Drum does a good job explicating the subject for those unfamiliar with the research.


Robert Langham said...

I would take them one step further: Part of the drop in crime rate is the presence of MORE lead, (Pb), in the environment being carried around in firearms by CHL holders.

Prison Doc said...

I hope no one takes this Drum's work too seriously. There is a big difference between linkage and causation and I doubt that the lead theory will bear out much close scrutiny. Mother Jones is an appropriate depository for such "work".

Gritsforbreakfast said...

PD, James Q. Wilson cited the same research favorably, and he's the archetype conservative criminologist, father of the "broken windows" theory, etc.. It's not Drum's work, he's citing some pretty heavy hitting research that you would do well to examine before you dismiss.

Robert, speaking of the lead in the environment thanks to CHL holders, did you see the sidebar to the story about the effects of lead on firing range workers? The National Academy of Sciences found OSHA standards for military firing ranges didn't protect the workers.

jimbino said...

As a young savant in math and physics, I had difficulty holding a conversation with girls and, later, women. After a few years, however, of ingesting lead and mercury used in scientific experiments, I found I could finally communicate with them at their level!

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Hey Grits, I wonder if anyone has included considering testing the scarp-yard workers'.

Regarding the so-called drop in crime, it (THE GREAT L.E. FAKE-OUT) could also be tied to the wide-spread sucking / chewing of un-leaded #2 pencils & the decision by P. Ds’. to let certain crimes not be considered worthy of their presence and/ or reporting (not to mention the art of ‘Bundling’ and / or 'Dropping' of charges).?

Chew on this folks, while replacing an 80 year old lady’s slashed bedroom screens’ that lives on a street with a very high crime rate (378 yards from the P.D.), she told me that she has decided to let the criminals take what they want and now leaves all doors & windows unlocked, due to simply growing tired of being treated like a “child or a crazy lady” by the 911 Operators’ & the cops that did show up. BTW, ('Crime' is the #1 topic at The Senoir Citizens Center.) Two days later she told a Mexican to stop cutting her new screen and to come around to the front door and she’ll let him in. Now, that’s a real life sized WTF? It (lazy-ass cops & her giving in and up) has prompted us to form our own (8 to 80) police force and I can tell you, the crime rate isn’t low one damn bit. Thanks.

*R.L., you've hit it right on the head (sorta). I carry a holstered Leatherman Utility Tool and in conjunction with the complimentary hand-to-hand close quarters combat training one obtains in school, jail / prison, I can't tell you how many times it's prevented a crime. And there isn't one ounce of lead in it.