Crime and Punishment Criminal Justice Education Prison Prison Policy Violence Prevention Zero Tolerance and School Discipline

Does Leaded Gas Cause Crime?……Yoga in Lock-Up….and the Cost/Benefit of Having Armed Guards in Schools


Yes, it sounds loopy. But the seemingly whacked-out notion that there may be a cause-and-effect relationship beween the discontinued use of leaded gas and the dive—20 years later—in America’s crime rate, is a theory that is slowly gaining traction among serious researchers.

Even sober-minded law prof Doug Berman over at Sentencing, Law and Policy, calls Kevin Drum’s story about the relationship between lead and crime in the January/Fberuary issue of Mother Jones’ Magazine “the the first ‘must read’ of 2013 for crime and punishment fans.”

No single clip really does the story justice, so I recommend reading the entire thing. But here’re a couple of snippets that will give you at least a feeling for what Drum is on about:

….it’s not just New York that has seen a big drop in crime. In city after city, violent crime peaked in the early ’90s and then began a steady and spectacular decline. Washington, DC, didn’t have either Giuliani or Bratton, but its violent crime rate has dropped 58 percent since its peak. Dallas’ has fallen 70 percent. Newark: 74 percent. Los Angeles: 78 percent.

There must be more going on here than just a change in policing tactics in one city. But what?

THERE ARE, IT TURNS OUT, plenty of theories. When I started research for this story, I worked my way through a pair of thick criminology tomes. One chapter regaled me with the “exciting possibility” that it’s mostly a matter of economics: Crime goes down when the economy is booming and goes up when it’s in a slump. Unfortunately, the theory doesn’t seem to hold water—for example, crime rates have continued to drop recently despite our prolonged downturn.


…..More prisons might help control crime, more cops might help, and better policing might help. But the evidence is thin for any of these as the main cause. What are we missing?

Experts often suggest that crime resembles an epidemic. But what kind? Karl Smith, a professor of public economics and government at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, has a good rule of thumb for categorizing epidemics: If it spreads along lines of communication, he says, the cause is information. Think Bieber Fever. If it travels along major transportation routes, the cause is microbial. Think influenza. If it spreads out like a fan, the cause is an insect. Think malaria. But if it’s everywhere, all at once—as both the rise of crime in the ’60s and ’70s and the fall of crime in the ’90s seemed to be—the cause is a molecule.

A molecule? That sounds crazy. What molecule could be responsible for a steep and sudden decline in violent crime?

Well, here’s one possibility: Pb(CH2CH3)4.


The NY Times’ Mary Pilon has the story. Here’s a clip:

….The ancient art of yoga, a physical, spiritual and mental practice whose benefits have been promoted as improving relaxation, has found an unlikely home: prisons.

When many states have cut their wellness and education programs for inmates, citing cost and political pressure, some wardens looking for a low-cost, low-risk way for inmates to reflect on their crimes, improve their fitness and cope with the stress of overcrowded prison life are turning toward yoga.

The number of yoga programs is not officially tracked, but many wardens said they were interested in pursuing them. Typically programs start informally, a hodgepodge of volunteer efforts by instructors and correctional facilities. At least 20 prisons now offer yoga through the Prison Yoga Project, a program that began in California 12 years ago when its founder, James Fox, began teaching yoga to at-risk youth. Mr. Fox holds trainings for yoga teachers and said he has sent more than 7,000 copies of his manual to inmates to practice yoga on their own.

States’ spending on corrections has quadrupled during the past two decades, to $52 billion a year, according to a 2011 report from the Pew Charitable Trusts. Despite a focus on rehabilitation and deterrence of future crimes, however, roughly 4 in 10 adult American offenders return to prison within three years of their release, the report found.

“Any program that gives an inmate a chance to reflect is going to have positive benefits,” said Bill Sessa, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which has expanded yoga offerings to most of its 33 adult prisons.

“What we’re trying to do with any program is get is get inmates to think about how responsible they are for the crime they’ve committed and the consequences.”


Approximately one third of the nation’s public schools have armed security staff on campus.

In an Op Ed for the San Diego Union, Barbara Raymond, director of schools & neighborhoods policy for The California Endowment, looks at whether armed guards really make schools safer.

Here’s a clip:

In the 2009-10 school year, about one-third of all public schools had armed security staff. These are typically sworn officers who are part of local police or sheriff’s departments. Additionally, many large school districts operate their own police departments, with the Los Angeles Unified School District having the largest force in the nation with more than 350 officers.

Despite the growing number of school police, research does not support the thesis that an armed presence improves school safety. What is proven, however, is that more police on campus means more young people are sent into the justice system. Police are not typically trained in youth development, child psychology, or how to best respond to youth misconduct, which sometimes leads to an escalation of conflict and charges filed for misbehavior that used to be handled by the school. One study found that campuses with school resource officers had nearly five times the rate of arrests for disorderly conduct as schools without an officer, even when accounting for school poverty. And in Los Angeles in the last three years, school police issued 33,000 tickets to young people that required them to go to court – with 40 percent of those tickets going to kids younger than 14.


  • Re: school security: this data is gibberish. The only way to quantify the effectiveness of having armed security is to look at schools that have been attacked by gunman. How many had security vs those that didn’t. That’s it. Have any of 1/3 of schools with security been attacked ? What does giving kids tickets have to do with security? Ridiculous article.



    Of the four deadliest school shootings in modern American history—University of Texas in 1966, Columbine High School in 1999, Virginia Tech in 2007, Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012—only Sandy Hook did not have armed security.

    And then, of course, there was the Ft. Hood shooting, where there were plenty of armed and trained folks on the populous base, but not in the room where the shooter opened up, because it was a place where people were having medical exams.

    Furthermore, the author of this op ed, Barbara Raymond, is—among other things—a public safety and security consultant, and a former criminal justice research analyst for the RAND Corporation, so she’s rigorously top of her facts and figures.

    Raymond isn’t saying we shouldn’t have school security. She’s merely saying that law enforcement is only one piece of the puzzle, while there are other equally or more important pieces.

    She is also saying that over securitizing schools, without thinking through the collateral affects, can lead to other kinds of problems.

  • C: thank you for your comments. What I don’t like about the article is the claim that a police presence does not improve school safety then goes off topic to point out that their enforcement efforts have a negative effect on kids. It’s apples and oranges in the same basket.

    One of the incidents you mention, (Fort Hood) tends to demonstrate that these homicidal maniacs will choose “soft targets” where they will not be met with resistance. The U of TX shooting was committed by a military trained rifleman using a rifle, shooting long distances from high ground. He was certainly no match for policeman on the ground armed only with pistols. We cannot prepare for all scenarios and have SWAT teams standing by at every school to deal with this type of threat, (sniper or bomber), but a armed officer or two can deal with a crazy kid that walks on to campus with small arms.

    The presence of an officer is a deterent and if nothing else, a distraction when the shooting starts. If my child’s school were attacked, I would want her to have any opportunity or advantage, however slight, to escape unharmed. As lt. Colonel David Grossman put it, when the wolf comes to slaughter the sheep, there needs to be a sheepdog there to protect the flock. It’s a crazy world we live in, but that is the reality we already have to live with in airports, courthouses, protecting politicians, etc. so what is more important than protecting kids?

    On the subject of police harassing kids at school, I have to agree that it’s not their place. Discipline is the responsibility of parents and the school. The police should focus on security only.

  • I forgot to mention that after Columbine, all police departments have changed ther policies, requiring officers to immediately engage an active shooter, where the past policy was to contain the area and wait for sufficient back-up or SWAT response. Had this policy been in place then, the outcome may have been different.

  • The fact that UVA had armed security is meaningless – it’s like saying there were armed police somewhere in a small town. Where was armed security at Columbine? Sandy-Hook?

    Ft. Hood was a great example of a free fire zone (i.e. a gun free zone). Weapons and ammunition on a military base are strictly controlled. There may have been a lot of trained people on the base, and a lot of guns and ammunition, but there were almost no people (other than MP’s, who stopped the killer) who carrying or even had access to loaded weapons.

    In fact, it’s a great example. The killer was using a weapon widely scorned by gun knowledgeable people, because of it’s poor stopping power. A few soldiers (who probably would know how to use their side-arms, as do almost all concealed carry holders in the US) with their military issue side-arms would have shot this terrorist and stopped him in no time.

    It is not surprising to find education establishment folks trying to support the myth that armed security (uniformed, obvious or not) doesn’t do any good – they are almost uniformly anti-gun, for emotional reasons. But it’s just that, a myth.

    When dealing with mass killers, armed individuals (especially civilians or cops with concealed weapons) are the best solution, and there are several cases (including schools) where this has been demonstrated. Of course, most cases where an armed civilian stops a shooter don’t show up in the stats, because the shooter is killed before the incident reaches the threshold of “mass shooting.”

    I like the Utah approach: allow those teachers who so desire to carry concealed weapons under the same rules as any other individual in the state. This means that a shooter doesn’t know where he might run into resistance, and mass shooters who encounter armed resistance almost always stop immediately (and usually commit suicide if they haven’t already been killed).

  • It’s quite simple really.
    A maniac wants to commit as many murders as he can, with a gun, before being stopped.
    Here are his choices:
    A: A group of children who are not protected by armed security.
    B: A group of children who are protected by armed security.

    Which do you think he’s going to choose?

    Anyone who says it doesn’t matter is lying to themselves. They can try and use stats or whatever reasoning they want to try and justify their opposition to armed security at schools.
    But, if any teacher or administrator saw an armed person, that they KNEW meant to kill the children walking into their school, and were offered a gun as a way to protect the children, would they not accept it and do what was necessary to protect the kids?
    Of course they would.
    Why would they accept it if “it wouldn’t do any good”?
    If they wouldn’t accept it, we have no business entrusting our children to them.

    They know a gun can be used to stop a threat. But they are so ideologically opposed to guns they won’t admit that overwhelmingly more often than not, it takes a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun.
    That’s why our cops and troops carry them.

  • A maniac wants to commit as many murders as he can, with a gun, before being stopped.
    Here are his choices:
    A: A group of children who are not protected by armed security.
    B: A group of children who are protected by armed security.

    Which do you think he’s going to choose?

    Actually your first error is in assuming that “a maniac” will do anything that smacks of logic, good sense and self-preservation, especially given that so many of their attacks end in their own deaths, either at their own hands or the hands of law enforcement. Far better to prevent “a maniac” from obtaining a weapon in the first place.

  • Apples and bowling balls Randy.
    You think passing any gun control laws will prevent this from happening in the next 10 years?
    How long do you think the black market guns will be around? How hard do you think it will be for a maniac to be able to obtain an assault weapon? THEY WILL BE AROUND FOR YEARS TO COME even if we pass a law tomorrow.

    Until then?

    Like I stated in a previous post, you just can’t bring yourself to admit that armed security for schools is a good idea.
    Armed Secret Service agents protect our president’s children while they are at school. I think that is a good idea.

  • BTW Randy,

    Talk about failing to use logic.

    Tell us where you used logic that passing a law against guns will keep this from happening.
    There is a law against murder.
    You think somebody who is planning a massacre will turn in his assault weapons if we pass a law against them?

    It takes some seriously flawed logic to reach that conclusion.

    Tell us a logical solution on how to prevent this from happening in the next 10 years.

    Tell us logically how you are going to keep assault weapons out of the hands of a maniac when there are hundreds of thousands out there. You could pass all the laws you want, but you can’t snap your fingers and make the weapons go away. That will take a long long time.

    What about until that time?

    I’m going with armed security as the best LOGICAL solution to the problem.

  • I think preventing the mentally ill from obtaining weapons will help. I think limiting the size of magazines will help.

    Armed Secret Service agents protect our president’s children while they are at school. I think that is a good idea.

    Talk about false equivalencies. I would imagine that the agents probably are never far from Malia and Sasha at school. If you propose an armed guard for each child, you might want to consider the cost . . .

    You think passing any gun control laws will prevent this from happening in the next 10 years?

    Why don’t you ask the parents of the children who were murdered in Newtown? If it prevents one, it’s worth it.

    If every law were perfect there would be no crime. We still have laws aginst DUI, notwithstanding the fact that people do drive intoxicated. Do you propose that we do away with ignition interlocks because it won’t stop every intoxicated driver?

    This is, God forgive me, the silliest pillar upon which the anti-gun regulation side builds their argument. Few laws are 100% perfect. The alternative is sheer anarchy.

  • For the record, last August, a gunman was killed by police in front of the Empire State Building and nine bystanders were wounded, all by bullets fired by police.

    You have demonstrated zero empirical evidence of a deterrent effect in having armed guards in schools. If you believe that turning schools into gunfire zones is a good idea, then logic is most assuredly not your strong suit.

  • Randy, in four posts you failed to answer the simple questions.
    Is it that you can’t focus on the questions? Or is it that you WON’T focus on the questions?
    You rail about false equivalencies, you make ridiculous analogies, but you don’t answer the questions.

    In the spirit of being neighborly and civil, I’ll try again.

    Randy, I’m not asking you what laws you think should or shouldn’t be passed. We ALL know the answer to that question.

    What I am asking you is this:
    (I’ll number the questions for you so you can answer them succinctly in your response post).

    1. Tell us your logical solution on how to prevent this from happening in the next 10 years.

    2. Do you think passing a law will prevent this from happening in the next 10 years?

    3. Do you think somebody planning one of these massacres will turn in the weapons they are planning to use?

    A simple yes or no to the above questions will do. No need for several posts trying to avoide the questions.
    No need to try and prove to us all you’re the smartest guy in the room. We already know that.
    Try a simple, logical, and intellectually honest approach. Just answer the questions you’ve been asked.

    We’ll go from there.

    If you refuse to answer them, well then, I’ll take that as an admission that you don’t have a logical solution on the best way to try and prevent a maniac from doing it again in the near future.
    I’ll chalk it up to you just wanting to discuss a political platform.
    I’m suggesting possible logical solutions to the problem we are currently, right now, in real time, facing.
    Not how to prevent this 10 or 20 years from now when maniacs won’t be able to able to obtain these weapons.

    Focus bro. On the questions. It’s not all that tough.

  • 1.) Stricter background checks on all potential buyers including individual to individual, including proof of examinations by medical professionals. Outlawing large magazine capacities.

    2.) I will type this slowly since I said this before and you didn’t seem to understand: there is no law that prevents every single crime, but if it prevents one such incident it is worth implementing and I believe it could prevent such incidents.

    3.) That’s a ridiculous question and it really doesn’t merit consideration, but if some “maniac” who doesn’t have such weapons and was contemplating a massacre, laws could prevent them from obtaining said weapons.

    I’m suggesting possible logical solutions to the problem we are currently, right now, in real time, facing.

    No you’re not: you’re presenting a self-congratulatory pro-arming viewpoint. You completely ignored the concerns of turning crowded areas into fire zones. As I demonstrated – in a non-hypothetical fashion unlike your comments – there are great risks to bystanders in having shootouts in public. Nine people were wounded on 34th street in Manhattan in a shootout between cops and a gunman.

    Don’t patronize me. You should diasabuse yourself of the notion that you hold a monopoly on logical solutions. No one does, myself included.

  • LA City schools are a cesspool for gang members. LA City School Police are at virtually every school throughout the city. Armed police officers within LA City schools that look like prisons, sad but true. Have not heard of any mass shooting incidents at LA City schools because there are armed police officers everywhere, get it?

  • Randy,
    So you believe the incident you continue to cite is a reason to not have armed security protecting our kids.
    Incredible lack of logic, based on history and fact.

    “there are great risks to bystanders in having shootouts in public. Nine people were wounded on 34th street in Manhattan in a shootout between cops and a gunman.”

    So, using your logic, we shouldn’t haved armed guards at schools because if they get in a shootout with the gunman, they might accidentally shoot innocent bystanders?
    Based on that logic, we should not have our troops armed because they might be killed by friendly fire.
    Based on that logic, cops shouldn’t be allowed by policy to fire their weapons in a crowded area.

    Now I’ll address the incident you want to cite as the reason why there shouldn’t be armed security at our schools.

    “Nine people were wounded on 34th street in Manhattan in a shootout between cops and a gunman”.

    Randy, I would much rather have had nine kids wounded at Sandy Hook school in a shootout between the maniac and a security guard, than the 20 kids who were methodically murdered after the maniac murdered the six unarmed staff members who heroically confronted him in an attempt to stop him.
    You see Randy, we know, without a doubt, what these maniacs are going to do if no one on the premises has the means to stop them.
    Refer to:
    Sandy Hook

    These are not “hypotheticals” my friend. These are incidents where the murderers kept murdering until the cops showed up. Then the cowards killed themselves.

    Last question I’ll ask you on this subject Randy.

    If you would have been there at Sandy Hook, and had a gun at your disposal, would you have shot that maniac had you had the opportunity?

    A simple yes or no will do.

  • You see Randy, I’m basing my opinion/solution on logic.
    We can reasonably predict, with a reasonable degree of certainty, what it is these maniacs are going to do if there are no armed personnel present to stop them.

    Quite simple really.

  • How about it Randy?

    If you would have been at Sandy Hook School and had a gun at your disposal, would you have shot that murdering maniac?

  • Randy,
    It’s been eight days since I asked you that question.
    I guess that question is too tough for you to answer.
    That’s ok. We know, don’t we. And we know what your refusal to answer the question implies. You knew it was time to withdraw from the debate, because there was no reasonable answer you could give that wouldn’t prove my point for me.

    You’re an ideologue that doesn’t like guns. Because of your ideology, you refuse to admit the utility and positive benefits of them.

    Your argument is based on emotion. You don’t LIKE them.

    My argument is based on logic. They can be USED to protect human lives.

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