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November 16, 2014

Does latest FBI report of crime's decline provide still more support for lead-exposure-crime link?

Regular readers know I am always drawn to the (often overlooked) social science research suggesting lead exposure levels better account for variations in violent crime rates than any other single variable. Consequently, I am happy and eager to note this new data analysis sent my way by researcher Rick Nevin who has been talking up the lead-exposure-violent-crime link for many years.

This short new piece by Nevin, titled "FBI 2013 Crime Statistics: Record Low USA Murder Rate; More Record Low Juvenile Arrest Rates," discusses the recent FBI report (noted here) that crime continued to decline significantly in 2013. Here are parts of Nevin's interesting and encouraging data discussion (with a recommendation readers click through here to see charts and all the links):

The 2013 USA murder rate was the lowest in the history of FBI reports dating back to 1960. The 2013 property crime rate (burglary and theft) was the lowest since 1966, and the 2013 violent crime rate (murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault) was the lowest since 1970. The record low 2013 murder rate indicates that the 2013 vital statistics homicide rate (including justifiable homicides) was close to the lowest levels recorded since 1909.

Nevin (2000) found that trends in preschool lead exposure from 1941-1975 explained over 90% of the substantial year-to-year variation in the USA violent crime rate from 1964 to 1998. That relationship has continued for another 15 years, with a 35% decline in the violent crime rate from 1998-2013. No other criminology theory has a comparable record of accurately predicting ongoing crime trends....

From 1991 (when the overall USA violent crime rate peaked) through 2012, the violent crime arrest rate has fallen by about 60% for ages 10-17, 50% for ages 20-29, 40% for ages 30-39, and 5% for ages 40-44, but increased by 14% for ages 45-49 and 17% for ages 50-54. The violent crime arrest rate is still increasing for age groups born before the early-1970s peak in USA preschool lead exposure.

The 2013 FBI report also shows another large decline in juvenile offending, due to ongoing declines in preschool lead exposure. Following record lows in juvenile arrest rates in 2012, the number of juveniles arrested for property crimes fell by another 15% from 2012 to 2013, and the number arrested for violent crimes fell another 8.6%. The property crime arrest rate for ages 10-17 is now about half of what it was in 1960, and the property crime arrest rate for ages 10-14 is just one third of what it was in 1960.

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November 16, 2014 at 01:59 PM | Permalink


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Correlation doesn't equal causation. One of the major issues with the lead paint theory is that while homicide rates have been declining suicide rates have been going up. If there is a /chemical/ connection between lead and the impulse to kill its difficult to explain how the chemical encourages people to engage in other-harm but not self-harm--that seems more like the behavior of a symbiotic parasite than an inert chemical. I'd like to see his data overlaid with data on suicide rates for the same historical period.

Posted by: Daniel | Nov 16, 2014 3:47:08 PM

A complex effect such as rate of crime must have many factors, if a car or plane crash may have a dozen. Naturally, the ultimate catastrophic crimogenic substance is not lead. It is alcohol, likely a factor in half of violent crime.

I accepted the lead level as a factor after finding longitudinal data and case-control data (higher levels in felons) at the individual level.

The trend curve of smoking is parallel and downward as a source of lead outside of emissions.

There are fewer people with the age at risk.

It is tougher to commit crimes due to technology. Detectives walked a murderer using overlaps in business street video recordings. Don't bother ripping out a car radio. Surgeons, using lessons from war, are saving many from being murdered.

The obesity epidemic, worse among the poor, makes it tough to attack people.

Video addiction and ubiquitous, hard core porn. Can't leave the house to mug anyone at this rate.

The most crimogenic substance of all, alcohol, is used less often than marijuana by teens and young adults.

The poor are so rich, there is no point to working hard committing crimes.

Mandatory guidelines put the bad guys in prison. The crime meter in prison is spinning at supersonic speed, but does not appear in the fraudulent misleading lawyer propaganda, Obama stooge lying statistics, where the police is refusing to take reports, and if made to, throws them in the trash once the victim has left. In prison, they likely do not even record the crimes, as long as the prisoners do not disrespect the guards.

Another unheralded benefit of guidelines, covered up by the pro-criminal lawyer traitor? No spawning of super predator bastards breeding with the crack whores. This effect is not the abortion effect. It is an original concept, an unrecognized and covered up benefit of incapacitation that will never be admitted by the lawyer traitor. Why would the lawyer decry the absence of super-predator, crime bastards? Massive government make work lawyer jobs. That is why there is a movement to empty the prisons, so their clients get busy spawning future client bastards.

If the above lying statistics were true, the lawyer traitor should be willing to walk in the neighborhoods I point out after dark, better yet move his family there.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Nov 16, 2014 7:24:31 PM

Unusual first names associated with criminality.


Cigarette smoking, perhaps via the delivery of lead, a major factor in criminality

Wacky site: http://medicolegal.tripod.com/preventcrime.htm

Serious study linking smoking in the mothers to crime in the child, via smoking, the link is likely impulsivity:


Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Nov 17, 2014 1:51:40 AM

"Correlation doesn't equal causation."

We don't have mere correlation. We have correlation plus a plausible mechanism plus pretty decent controls for plausible third variables.

The argument from the increase in suicide rates is spurious. The relationship between homicide and suicide is weak, and in the U.S. the two are in fact negatively correlated, at least according to this recent study.

Posted by: Michael Drake | Nov 17, 2014 1:24:49 PM

(Sorry—"spurious" was too strong a word. "Unsound" is more like it.)

Posted by: Michael Drake | Nov 17, 2014 1:31:17 PM

@Michael Drake.

Your data only proves my point. How does lead, the chemical, differentiate between homicide and suicide? If there was a correlation between homicide and suicide that would tend to support your point because of course chemicals are not alive and can't differentiate. So the fact that there is a negative correlation between suicide and homicide supports the null hypothesis. Maybe rephrasing the question will help you to see my point: at a biological level how is it that lead exposure produces a homicidal urge but not a suicidal urge? That's the question that you need to answer.

Posted by: Daniel | Nov 17, 2014 4:05:35 PM

Daniel:: Homicide and suicide are tightly linked by impulsvity. The latter may result from lead induced frontal lobe damage.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Nov 17, 2014 11:09:27 PM

"homicidal urge but not a suicidal urge"

SC's comment as to impulsivity, which is notable, the two overlap -- some who commit homicides have a death wish, most blatantly see in the "suicide by cop" examples.

I will just look on this with interest, not taking the time to study the research to be honest, though the idea that lead perhaps somehow negatively effects people in ways that influence criminality seems possible. At best though it seems like one of many variables that is most likely to affect communities with multiple crime inducing variables.

So, to the extent it matters, I question how much. But, again, I can't really intelligently comment (except to the degree one does in a comment on a blog) on the point & welcome the research.

Posted by: Joe | Nov 18, 2014 11:02:54 AM

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