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By Martin Lamarque

The neuroscience of crime, and its local applications

Uploaded: Jan 23, 2014

Scientific research has provided us with a list of factors in a child's upbringing that pretty much predict life outcomes, with scary accuracy. Unfortunately, in spite of solid data coming out of serious research and recognized universities, such information has not made it into the decision-making process of government and institutions. Most often, in tackling the never-ending upswings in crime, both society and authorities respond with knee-jerk reactions that don't address the root causes of crime.
"If we could only hire more police." "We need more jails, and harsher sentences."
Are often the solutions recommended by the majority. And in heeding these superficial solutions, our nation has the highest rates of incarceration in the developed world.
In the meantime, with the lion's share of their budget dedicated to enforcement, neighborhoods like Belle Haven continue to be little war zones. For fiscal year 2012-2013, Menlo Park allocated 38% of its budget on police; double the 18% spent on community services. And by the latest wave of shootings, we still have to see some tangible progress.
No child is born into the world with a plan to become a gang member or intending to waste his life in any other way; whether it be by dropping out of school, being unable to hold a job, becoming addicted to alcohol and/or drugs, or committing crimes.
The seeds of social dysfunction are sown early in a child's life. And just as science points out the reasons, that same science tells us what helps a child grow up to be a healthy adolescent and a functional, productive adult.
As naïve as I might sound, I am fully aware of how far our society is from approaching the reduction of crime with solutions that don't involve more spending on the never reachable goal of enough enforcement, and the always increasing rates of incarceration. I have gotten used to people looking at me as if I just landed from another planet when I talk about the need to invest more in families with babies and infants, if we are going to stop the madness.

The type of solutions I advocate for sound too farfetched in a political environment where people demand instant cures for old ailments, and where politicians promise more jails and longer sentences. Even as a new crop of transgressors is sure to replace those killed on our streets, and the ones put away forever in our prisons.