In its ten-year history, Crime Times has published hundreds of articles—many of which aren't specifically about crime. A single issue, for instance, may contain stories on malnutrition-linked learning problems, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, genes linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and the role of low serotonin in impulsive behavior. Most likely, our readers sometimes wonder: "What does this article have to do with delinquents or criminals?"
The answer is that Crime Times is about biological influences on disordered behavior—and disordered behavior is one of the chief risk factors for criminality.
Obviously, not all biologically vulnerable children become delinquents or criminals. The majority, in fact, do not. Most children with ADHD or dyslexia, for instance, do not become criminals—but research shows that most criminals have one or both of these disorders. Similarly, studies show that a high percentage of criminal offenders have brains compromised by prenatal alcohol or drug exposure, heavy metal toxicity, head injuries, or malnutrition. Research also reveals that impulsivity, aggression, and violence, all of which are key risk factors for criminality, are powerfully influenced by genes.
Little of this research, however, reaches the hands of the people who can make the best use of it: law enforcement officers, judges, pediatricians, psychologists, psychiatrists, neurologists, educators, and parents. This is a dangerous knowledge gap, because the fact that behavior problems often have biological roots means that we can treat them through biological means. When we do so, vulnerable children, teens, or even adults can be helped while there is still time to prevent a tragedy. We can, in many cases, stop the troubled child from growing up to be the rapist, robber, drug dealer, or cop-killer.
Crime Times is a plea for prevention and treatment of disordered behavior before the people it affects can do harm to society. By addressing the biological factors that contribute to crime, we can dramatically reduce the odds that at-risk children will become delinquents or criminals, reduce our burgeoning prison population, and protect the lives and property of millions of potential crime victims.
To do this, a revolution in thinking is needed. For decades we've been taught that regardless of animal studies linking aggression and other aberrant behavior to genetic flaws or head injuries or toxins or malnutrition, we humans were somehow exempt. In our case, experts told us, behavior problems stemmed solely from poor parenting, poor teaching, poverty, or other societal evils. Now, however, we know better—or at least we should.
Current research tells us that genes that lower brain levels of serotonin can contribute to impulsive aggression, and that genes that alter dopamine levels can contribute to ADHD. It tells us that childhood deficiencies of iron, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, or other nutrients can lead to hyperactivity, learning disabilities, and aggressive behavior. It tells us that lead toxicity elevates the risk for delinquency, and that prenatal alcohol or drug exposure can make a child more impulsive, less empathetic, and far less able to resist the lure of criminal behavior. Research now underway at UCLA is even revealing that all the way down to the level of the fruit fly brain, genetically acquired aggression can be reduced simply by altering the diet.
As science continues to unravel the many biological threads that can lead to delinquency or criminality, it is time for this knowledge to lead to new and effective treatments. How many of the 18 boys discussed in the article on page 1 of this issue would be on death row if their biological impairments had been detected and treated? How many of their victims would still be alive today? And how many future lives can we save by recognizing that changing the brains of potential offenders is far more effective than merely changing their environments?
Insofar as we know, Crime Times is the only publication entirely devoted to reporting current research involving the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of brain disorders that result in disordered and criminal behavior. The remarkable number of U.S. and foreign websites that now link to Crime Times' website reinforces our belief that this information is sorely needed by people all over the world who are seeking alternatives to failed policies for addressing crime and violence.
It is our hope that by providing information on the brain impairments that contribute to violent or criminal behavior, we will encourage more research into how we can prevent or treat these problems. And it is our belief that such prevention and treatment will lead today's and tomorrow's troubled children and adults to a better future, and protect the people who would otherwise be their prey.