Frisky Business

By Bill Maher

There was a recent article in the New York Times about the decades-long drop in crime in the city, and how NYC has been bucking the trend in the rest of the country by locking up fewer people, not more. Reducing crime without having to lock up more people is pretty much the Holy Grail of law enforcement, other than having a billionaire with a bat suit in town, and New York's done it. But how?

The Internet is abuzz over a theory, which is that it's because we took lead out of gasoline, paint and toys. As lead levels declined, so has criminal behavior in a bunch of countries. Now it's true that correlation doesn't equal causation, and there's no way to prove that criminals all had brain damage from lead poisoning, but there's a lot of data on this and it's pretty interesting. If nothing else, it's definitely made me cut way down on huffing.

But why is New York doing so much better than the rest of the country? One likely reason is that there are more cops, and they've gotten smarter. They don't focus on individual criminals so much as concentrate on "hot spots" where there's a lot of crime.

The "stop and frisk" policy that's been getting so much grief from civil libertarians is part of this. Does it violate the Fourth Amendment? Maybe. Does it reduce crime? It seems to. Is that a fair trade off? I would say no. Where should you hide your pot? In your sock.