May 23, 2014
Cluedo solved: It was the lead pipe! I read with interest the BBC news story entitled ‘Did removing lead from petrol spark a decline in crime?’* By Dominic Casciani. The article explored the findings from Dr Bernard Gesch and Professor Jessica Wolpaw-Reyes who both found a link between the levels of lead within the environment and aggressive and criminal behaviour some 20 years later.
These findings raised the debate between those who believe in a biological causation to offending and those who are sceptical about such links – such as behavioural criminologists, including Roger Matthews (Professor of Criminology at University of Kent). Roger Matthews (and I paraphrase) challenged the conclusion that the effect of higher levels of lead in the body would increase the propensity of criminal behaviour in the next generation. Roger Matthews, like many acknowledged that the causes of people’s offending behaviour are multi-faceted. The research depended heavily on making historical comparisons of crime statistics over a significant period of time. I personally think it is hard to make accurate historical comparisons in relation to crime statistics as not only has the way crime is measured changed but society’s view of what is considered a criminal act has also significantly changed.
It is certainly true that crime has reduced in recent years, according to the Home Office recorded crime has reduced by 38% since 2002*.
I am CEO of Langley House Trust. Langley House Trust has provided accommodation, support and care to offenders since 1958. Our experience indicates that the causes of crime are indeed multi-faceted. We recognise that our success in turning offender’s lives around is partly due to the holistic approach we take. We do of course believe delivering individual support to each offender is crucial. Langley House Trust believes the first step to securing sustained positive change in an individual’s life is to ensure their basic human needs are met; such as a safe place to stay, access to a decent diet and health care. This I know is not rocket science, but in my experience commissioners within the Criminal Justice System can sometimes concentrate on measuring outcomes linked to higher need interventions. On a regular basis Langley House Trust engages with service users that have never before had their basic needs met, perhaps they have been homeless, never before engaged with healthcare professionals nor understood what a healthy lifestyle looks like. Langley House Trust supports and encourages individuals to access a GP, dentist and other healthcare services as required. The Trust is a registered social housing provider and we work tirelessly to assist service users to live independently, often for the first time. We help them learn to maintain a tenancy, which enables them to live independently in the community. Without these basic needs being addressed, how can offenders deal with higher matters such as reasoning, understanding the consequences to their behaviour or make positive choices that will affect future behaviour? This holistic approach may be obvious but sometimes the obvious can be overlooked!