If you're in New York City, I'll be on the Leonard Lopate show on WNYC today at 1:20 pm discussing my story about the connection between lead and violent crime. Tune in!
And while I'm on the subject, there are a couple of quick items I'd like to mention that may or may not have been clear from my article:
- Am I saying that gasoline lead is fully responsible for the nationwide drop in violent crime over the past two decades? No. Absolutely not. There are plenty of other factors, including the end of the crack epidemic, changes in policing tactics, higher incarceration rates, and more. The precise effect of all these things is a matter of controversy, but they almost certainly all played a role. However, I am saying that they probably played a smaller role than we think.
- Is the lead-crime connection 100% proven? No. However, the evidence, which started out fairly thin ten years ago, is now quite extensive. In fact, one of my motivations for writing this piece was the fact that the criminology community has paid very little attention to the lead hypothesis, and I think it's time they did. If it's wrong, they should do the research to show that it's wrong. But if it's right, that should change the way we look at other crime-fighting tactics. Change #1, in my opinion, would be our current policy of mass incarceration, which quite likely had done as much good as it would ever do by the mid-80s. Given the decline in violence over the past two decades, and the possibility that it's probably due to a permanent decrease in lead emissions, it's quite likely that we could safely cut back on incarceration rates at this point.
More on this later.
Update: Listen to the interview here: