December 12, 2013
1 Percent Of Swedes Commit 63% Of Violent Crimes

You've heard about the most wealthy 1%. But what about the most violent 1%? Only a very small fraction of the Swedish population commit all the violent crimes. What matters to me: Can they be identified in advance?

One percent of the population is responsible for 63 percent of violent crime convictions

Imagine some of these people could be identified in advance with high accuracy. Would you favor sending them into exile to a territory made up of only dangerous people? Or of a gene therapy could make their minds much less prone to violence would you favor their getting a dose of gene therapy to make them less angry and less aggressive?

Only 23,342 individuals out of 2.5 million accounted for 63% of the violent crime.

The majority of all violent crime in Sweden is committed by a small number of people. They are almost all male (92%) who early in life develops violent criminality, substance abuse problems, often diagnosed with personality disorders and commit large number non-violent crimes. These are the findings of researchers at Sahlgrenska Academy who have examined 2.5 million people in Swedish criminal and population registers.

In this study, the Gothenburg researchers matched all convictions for violent crime in Sweden between 1973 and 2004 with nation-wide population register for those born between 1958 to 1980 (2.5 million).

Not all crimes are solved. So a method of biologically assessing for criminality might be able more accurate than the criminal justice system.

The ones that were convicted 3 or more times represent a failure of the Swedish criminal justice system. Why were these wolves released back to live among the lambs once again?

Of the 2.5 million individuals included in the study, 4 percent were convicted of at least one violent crime, 93,642 individuals in total. Of these convicted at least once, 26 percent were re-convicted three or more times, thus resulting in 1 percent of the population (23,342 individuals) accounting for 63 percent of all violent crime convictions during the study period.

Identifying every single person with a high potential for violence will be hard. But suppose some of them have brain patterns that become easy to recognize. What would you recommend be done with this capability?

It is possible to identify psychopathic and narcissistic personality traits from Facebook posts. As we increasingly live the measured life by the time someone turns 16 the amount of signals that will be available to assess a person's risk factors will be enormous. Imagine kids who beat up other kids in grade school getting electronic monitoring devices attached to them to record all their acts of violence. Before they commit adult acts of violence the signals for their potential threat will be available even before putting them under a brain scanner to testing their DNA. I expect highly machine learning models will be able to pick out most dangerous youth.

A good book by Adrian Raine: The Anatomy of Violence: The Biological Roots of Crime.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2013 December 12 09:30 PM 

Nick G said at December 13, 2013 10:31 AM:

It is also a fact that a large number of violent crimes are committed inside the penal systemĒ. (from the article)

This points to a methodological flaw of this study: it looks at correlation of first time convictions with later convictions: first time offenders are much more likely to offend than non-offenders. Well, it's very likely that being convicted and incarcerated dramatically increases one's exposure to violence and other violent criminals. These people are put into crime and violence training grounds, with lots of personal tutoring and mentoring in violence and other forms of criminality.

We need much better interventions than jail.

James Bowery said at December 13, 2013 11:27 AM:

Yes, instead of prisons and politics (the continuation of war by other means) we need Sortocracy: Sorting proponents of social theories into governments that test them.

If someone commits a "crime" in one government, let him find a government that will admit him in accord with their social theories.

There are exceptions to this, of course. For example, the International Chairman of Goldman Sachs should simply be executed for imposing his social theories on the entirety of Europe. People who want to impose their social theories on unwilling human subjects do not qualify as "human".

Tim Hogan said at December 13, 2013 7:04 PM:

Complete isolation in prison is the best answer. Just provide for intellectual sustenance one copy of the Bible, Koran, Talmud and unlimited computer porn. Truth is always found in the middle.

Wolf-Dog said at December 13, 2013 7:55 PM:

Randall Parker: The Amazon link to Adrian Raine's book that you mentioned, also contains the following sentence in the description of the text: "But arguing that biology is not destiny, he also sketches out provocative new biosocial treatment approaches that can change the brain and prevent violence. "

In other words, in addition to the genetic heritage that determines the properties of the brain, the same brain is also very malleable and its properties can be changed by the environment.

Here is another good book that studies the malleability of the brain: "The Brain That Changes Itself" by Norman Doidge:
"An astonishing new science called "neuroplasticity" is overthrowing the centuries-old notion that the human brain is immutable. In this revolutionary look at the brain, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Norman Doidge, M.D., provides an introduction to both the brilliant scientists championing neuroplasticity and the people whose lives they've transformed. From stroke patients learning to speak again to the remarkable case of a woman born with half a brain that rewired itself to work as a whole, The Brain That Changes Itself will permanently alter the way we look at our brains, human nature, and human potential. "

The latter book also emphasizes the positive and negative changes in personality that results from the environment, not just using mental exercises for the recovery of mathematical abilities after an accident that caused brain damage.

Separately, a Harvard University study demonstrated that certain mental exercises such as meditation, etc, actually changes the gene expression (this study does not yet demonstrate that meditation affects the offspring, but it does show that it turns on and off various genes):

But the next article is even more interesting: it says that mice can transmit their learned fears to their offspring as a way of warning them of a certain pattern of danger:
" It seems that inheritance is not simply about parents passing genes to their offspring. Some inheritable changes in gene activity can be passed on without changing the DNA sequencing, as researchers from Emory University School of Medicine claim that mice can inherit the memory of their ancestor's traumas and display similar responses when faced with the stimuli.
Despite not even having been conceived when their ancestors undertook fear training, the offspring reacted with fear when they smelled the acetophenone.
Kerry Ressler, co-author of the study, explains that the offspring responded strongly to far smaller amounts of the odor.
The researchers claim that the young mice did not respond in the same way to other smells, and when compared with the offspring of untrained mice, their reaction to just a whiff of acetophenone was about "200% stronger."
The scientists then examined the gene M71, which controls the functioning of the odor receptor in the nose that responds to the cherry blossom smell.
They found that the gene's DNA coding had not changed but it did carry epigenetic marks that changed its behavior and caused it to be "expressed more" in the offspring.
This alteration also caused a physical change in the descendant mice's brains - they all had a larger glomerulus - a section in the olfactory bulb.

Brett Bellmore said at December 14, 2013 3:50 AM:

The cost of prison is such that it might be cost effective to just assign each person failing the test an escort, and then let them go about their lives. Those that demonstrate they're incapable of controlling their behavior even when watched could then graduate to prison.

In the Brin Uplift novels, a test had been developed to identify sociopaths. Anyone who failed the test was required to have a transponder implanted, so that their position could be tracked, and they were barred from holding any position of trust, or entering sensitive installations. (It caused quite a social revolution when politicians were forced to take the test, and most flunked, losing their offices!)

The basic problem here is that psychology isn't all that objective a field, and even if it were capable of becoming an objective field of science, governments have a strong incentive to prevent this. Having your political opponents declared insane is pretty handy, if the insane lose their legal protections.

In any event, were such a test to be used, the first people subject to it ought to be incumbent politicians.

disambiguated said at December 14, 2013 8:03 AM:

Iím pretty sure that a big percentage of the cited 1% who commit the most violent crimes in Sweden arenít Swedes at all, but immigrants and/or the progeny of immigrants from Muslim-majority and African countries.

Randall Parker said at December 14, 2013 12:34 PM:

Nick G,

Putting someone in prison decreases their opportunity to commit more violent crimes against non-criminals. Therefore the convicted have arrest records that understate their propensity to violence. Plus, they do not get caught for every violent act they commit.

James Bowery,

Sortocracy is a great idea. Thanks.

Brett Bellmore,

The only way tests against sociopaths could be put into place would be with grandfather clauses. First put them into place for lower level offices. Exempt already elected officials.

Tim Hogan,

Prisons are expensive. I'm thinking Aleutian islands.

Nick G said at December 14, 2013 2:16 PM:

Putting someone in prison decreases their opportunity to commit more violent crimes against non-criminals.

That's one of the major, traditional, justifications for jail. There are better approaches. Reducing parental violence towards children, which been has shown to increase violence when those children become adults, is a good first step.

Therefore the convicted have arrest records that understate their propensity to violence.

If jail increases their likelihood of offending (which is pretty certain), then their subsequent arrest record overstates their natural propensity to violence. If it independently increases their likelihood of being arrested (as I argue below), that too overstates their natural propensity.

Plus, they do not get caught for every violent act they commit.

First time offenders probably get caught disproportionately for later arrests than the general population who don't have records. Remember one of the classic lines from Casablanca? At the end, Rick and the police chief stroll off into the dark, and the police chief tells a deputy "round up the usual suspects". Once one has a record, one is part of the suspect pool for future offenses, and as we saw in Casablanca, can get arrested *and* convicted for things one did not do. Plus, prints and DNA are in the system, so the chances of getting caught for real offenses go up dramatically.

We know that genes are important. But, they don't act alone - nature, nurture & society are entwined in very complex ways that we don't yet understand.

And, the creation of artificial criminality is at the heart of our criminal system. The *majority* of murders, other crime, and days in jail, in the US are the side effect of the artificial criminalization of drugs.

Paul Rain said at December 14, 2013 3:21 PM:

"We need much better interventions than jail."

Yup, the rope'll do the trick.

Nick G said at December 14, 2013 9:32 PM:

Perhaps for this kid:

He killed four people, and got probation because the judge concluded that his wealthy upbringing left him with a sense of right and wrong...

Nick G said at December 14, 2013 9:33 PM:

oops - that's "without a sense of right and wrong"...

Nick G said at December 14, 2013 9:40 PM:


Randall, I wouldn't mind if you deleted that post. It may say something about the differential treatment of rich and poor, but it probably doesn't add anything to this discussion.

jp straley said at December 17, 2013 7:11 AM:

As far as prisons go, States are bound by their laws to incarcerate their own citizens according to that State's internal standards. But if you will imprison a foreigner, or even an immigrant who is not yet a citizen, why not put that person in a contracted prison? I suggest they be imprisoned in a country very different from their home culture so that if they escaped they would not be able to "hide in plain sight." The UN probably has a set of basic standards for imprisonment, insist on such treatment.

Most importantly, it would be quite daunting to your average (ah, insert the name of your least favorit immigrant culture here: ______ ) lawbreaker to face imprisonment in, say, China or Pakistan.

Cheap, too.

Neil Craig said at December 20, 2013 7:03 AM:

What if a large proportion of that 1% turn out to be Swedes of African/Islamic origin. Would such pro-active measures still be justified?

Tj Green said at December 22, 2013 4:14 PM:

The predator prey arms race is why life is so creative. The psychopath is a intraspecies predator and we are their prey. This is what life is endless warfare and the best survival strategy wins.

GordoCooper said at December 31, 2013 7:10 AM:

I could identify them on sight, so could everyone else not in denial.

Skaarsberg said at January 21, 2014 11:08 AM:

A cheap gene sequencer could narrow the field, then psychometrics could tidy things up.

Without crime by blacks, the US crime rates would be the same as Euro crime rates.

Swedes were once Vikings. Someday they may be again.

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