Tag Archives: violence

Can Lead Poisoning be Linked to Violent Crime?

Over the past two decades, the rate of violent crime in the U.S. and Europe has dropped dramatically. Despite increasingly sensational news stories about crime, we are in fact much less likely to become the victim of a violent crime today than we were in 1990. According to the New York Times, the city of New York had fewer murders last year than in any year since 1963, when reliable record keeping began. In 2013, there were 333 murders in the city, down from 417 in 2012 and a stunning 2,245 in 1991. Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia also had large declines in violent crime during this period, as did smaller cities across the country. In England, the 2013 murder rate was at a 33-year low, nearly 50% lower than its peak in 1995, according to a recent story in the Guardian. There is no question that the rate of violent crime is significantly lower than it was 20 years ago.

Many factors could be contributing to this change, including improvements in law enforcement, reductions in the use of crack cocaine and other drugs, economic changes, and the aging of the population. However, a study by economist Rick Nevin suggests that reductions in the crime rate can be attributed to diminishing levels of lead poisoning from exposure to leaded gasoline and lead paint—and there is a growing body of research that supports his theory.

“What makes Nevin’s work persuasive is that he has shown an identical, decades-long association between lead poisoning and crime rates in nine countries,” says the Washington Post’s Shankar Vedantam.

In a recent Forbes article, science writer Alex Knapp outlines reasons that Nevin’s theory deserves attention. First, the numbers correlate almost perfectly; when a lag time of 21 years is added (to account for early childhood lead exposure in adult offenders), levels of exposure to lead from gasoline and paint track extremely closely with the U.S. homicide rate (see the graph in Nevin’s 2013 update).

Second, the correlation holds true with no exceptions. “Every country studied has shown this same strong correlation between leaded gasoline and violent crime rates,” says Knapp. “Within the United States, you can see the data at the state level. Where lead concentrations declined quickly, crime declined quickly. Where it declined slowly, crime declined slowly. The data even holds true at the neighborhood level—high lead concentrations correlate so well that you can overlay maps of crime rates over maps of lead concentrations and get an almost perfect fit.”

Third, the connection between lead poisoning and brain damage is clear. “Not only does lead degrade cognitive abilities and lower intelligence, it also degrades a person’s ability to make decisions by damaging areas of the brain responsible for emotional regulation, impulse control, attention, verbal reasoning, and mental flexibility,” says Knapp.

Nevin’s conclusions have been criticized by some, including those who are wary of the implications of linking biology to criminal behavior. In a recent interview with BBC News Magazine, Roger Matthews, a professor of criminology at the University of Kent, said, “The things that push people into crime are very different kinds of phenomena, not in the nature of their brain tissue….There has been a long history of people trying to link biology to crime—that some people have their eyes too close together, or an extra chromosome, or whatever. This stuff gets disproved and disproved. But it keeps popping up.”

What do you think about the link between lead levels and crime? Are the correlations strong enough to imply causation? What are the social implications of high lead levels in the blood? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!

Share this post: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

Individuals with Disabilities 286% More Likely to be a Victim of Violence

Adults with disabilities, particularly mental illness, have been found to be at an increased risk of being a victim of violence, according to a study funded by the World Health Organization’s Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability. This finding, a meta-analysis of 21 studies, found that one in four people with a mental illness experience some type of violence in a given year – a much higher rate than that experienced by the general population.

The chance that a person with a mental illness will experience physical, sexual, or domestic violence was found to be 3.86-fold higher than the odds of an adult without any disabilities at all. However, violence against individuals with other disabilities was common – it was found that individuals reporting any disability were 50 percent more likely to experience physical, sexual, or intimate partner violence in the prior 12 months than those individuals without a disability, and 60 percent higher for people with intellectual impairments.

Researchers believe that their inclusion criteria probably underestimated the prevalence of violence against people with disabilities because many of the studies were based in high-income countries with lower reported rates of violence. Furthermore, there were no studies of violence against individuals with intellectual disabilities in institutional settings or studies of individuals with sensory impairments included in the analysis.

Approximately 15 percent of adults worldwide have a disability.

Share this post: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

Dr. Lisa Firestone Presenting Two CE Workshops at MSPP in Boston

PAR author Dr. Lisa Firestone will be presenting two CE workshops through the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology.

“Suicide: What Professionals Need to Know” will be held on December 2, 2011. This workshop provides an in-depth understanding of the dynamics of suicide and of the legal, ethical, and case management issues that arise when dealing with suicidal individuals.

For more information or to register for this session, click here.

“A Developmental Understanding for Assessing and Treating Violent Individuals” will be held on December 3, 2011. This workshop provides an in-depth understanding of developmental issues contributing to violence, the triggers of violence, assessment, case management, and treatment of violent or potentially violent adults and adolescents.

For more information or to register for this session, click here.

Dr. Firestone is the author of the Firestone Assessment of Self-Destructive Thoughts and Firestone Assessment of Suicide Intent (FAST-FASI), the Firestone Assessment of Violent Thoughts™ (FAVT™) , and the Firestone Assessment of Violent Thoughts-Adolescent (FAVT-A).

Share this post: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

Understanding and Preventing Violence: Two Upcoming Webinars

Noted psychologist and violence prevention expert Dr. Lisa Firestone will be conducting a CE webinar for mental health professionals, as well as a free webinar for the public, this March and April. Dr. Firestone is the coauthor of several PAR publications including the Firestone Assessment of Self-Destructive Thoughts™ (FAST™) and the Firestone Assessment of Violent Thoughts ™ (FAVT™).

Violence Prevention: Understanding and Assessing Risk
A CE Webinar for Professionals with Dr. Lisa Firestone
Tuesday, March 8, 2011, 7:00–8:30 pm EST

The prodigious rates of violence in our country establish a need for an understanding and accurate assessment of violence risk. This webinar will address these concerns by providing participants with a developmental understanding of violence and a method for assessing violence risk.

To more effectively deal with the public health problem of violence, it is important to integrate knowledge from several disciplines to enhance our understanding of the many factors that contribute to an individual’s potential for violence. In this webinar, Dr. Firestone, a leading expert on violence, will integrate findings from the fields of neuroscience, attachment, and psychology.

Learning objectives for this webinar include:

  • understanding the core dynamics operating in clients at risk for violent behavior;
  • identifying clients’ negative thought patterns that influence self-destructive and violent behavior; and
  • utilizing assessment and interview techniques, based on static and dynamic risk factors, to effectively identify those at greatest risk for violent behavior.

This webinar offers two continuing education (CE) credits. Price: $25.

To learn more, visit  www.glendon.org and click on Upcoming Webinars; to register now, click on https://www3.gotomeeting.com/island/webinar/registration.tmpl?id=787421062.

Understanding and Preventing Violence
A Free Webinar for the public with Dr. Lisa Firestone
Tuesday, April 5, 2011, 2:00–3:00 pm EDT

What causes violence? How do you know if someone is at risk? What can you do if you—or someone you know—might be in trouble? This webinar will provide you with answers to these questions, as well as a developmental perspective on violence and the factors that contribute to violent behavior.

In this webinar, leading violence prevention expert Dr. Lisa Firestone will address some common questions on the topic, including what everyone should know about violence, how violence affects us, the signs of violent behavior, and how to stand up to violence.

To learn more, visit www.glendon.org and click on Upcoming Webinars; to register for this FREE webinar now, click on https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/558146001.

Share this post: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponEmail this to someone