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Cleveland dad calls for lead testing of juvenile offenders; points to correlation between lead and crime

Darrick Wade lost his 24-year-old son to complications from lead poisoning in 2007; he believes lead testing could reduce teen crime
Cleveland father calls for lead testing of juvenile offenders in an effort to reduce crime
Posted at 10:53 PM, Aug 08, 2023

CLEVELAND — Darrick Wade of Cleveland continues to cope with the loss of his 24-year-old son to complications from lead poisoning in 2007 and is now calling for lead testing of juveniles involved in crime and violence.

Wade believes there's a potential correlation between lead poisoning in children and a higher potential of criminal behavior later in life, so he's hosting an Aug. 11 protest on the steps of Cleveland City Hall starting at 4 p.m., hoping the Cleveland and Cuyahoga County juvenile justice systems will starting testing juveniles arrested for criminal acts.

“This crime wave is a direct result of those children who have fallen through the cracks in the system and never medically been tested," Wade said. “I would like the City of Cleveland and the Cuyahoga County justice system to take that individual, once they are placed into custody of the county, to evaluate whether there is lead poisoning in their system.”

Wade pointed to a new analysis released on Aug. 1 by researchers at George Washington University, which examined the potential link between lead exposure in utero or during childhood, with an increased risk of engaging in criminal behavior in adulthood.

“There is a correlation and relationship between juvenile delinquency and lead poisoning," Wade said. “Robbing, stealing cars, taking advantage of old people.”

Wade believes the testing of juvenile offenders will help law enforcement and behavioral agencies better determine how to slow down exposure to lead and, thus, the number of teens who pursue a criminal lifestyle.

Wade said he's also hoping the City of Cleveland will step-up enforcement of lead inspections and lead-safe certifications of rental units that were constructed before 1978, which may contain lead paint. Wade also urged families to apply for the Lead Hazard Control Repair Grant Program, which can provide qualifying families with funding for lead assessments, repainting and lead abatement.

“Apply for the funds to get the lead rid from their housing, the City of Cleveland has the funding to remove lead," Wade said. “I want the City of Cleveland to follow up on the registration of property owners to make sure that they are lead-safe.”

Cleveland Councilman and City Safety Committee Chairman Michael Polensek also agreed testing for lead poisoning in juvenile offenders is crucial in understanding the lead/crime connection and will provide insights that could help reduce juvenile crime in the near future.

“We’ve got to figure out what’s going on in their lives, are they going to school, are they being fed, do they have elevated lead levels,” Polensek said. "What is happening in their lives that has put them on the street at 3 o'clock in the morning with a pistol."

The City of Cleveland issued the following statement and information concerning its lead abatement efforts in response to our story:

"We remain focused on enforcing the landmark 2019 lead law, which requires all landlords to certify their properties as lead safe.=

Earlier this year we announced, for the first time in the City’s history, that Affidavits of Fact are being filed to put property owners – who have failed to comply with lead hazard control orders – on notice. This was done to ensure that no property could be sold to unaware buyers without the explicit knowledge that it is uninhabitable based on the levels of lead that exists in the residence. So far, more than 400 have been filed.

Additionally, the city is preparing a substantial number of criminal complaints for lead hazard control orders under the leadership of our new director of code enforcement. These will start moving through the system by the end of this month."

News 5 is committed toward following through on this developing story.

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