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Giving crime a bad name

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Spend enough time in the courthouse and you’ll see all kinds of unusual things – and names.

When my wife and I were going through potential baby names years ago, I found it to be a difficult process because too often I would associate one she liked with a case I had covered. Silly, yes, but it can be tough to get the stigma out of your head.

Fast forward to this week, where I saw a name that certainly jumped off the docket to me.

A guy named "Spyder" – that’s his legal name, not just a nickname – was in court facing a variety of robbery-related charges. It got me thinking about some of the other unusual names I’ve seen over the years and whether they play any role, however small, in a person getting involved in a criminal lifestyle.

Face it, kids can be pretty cruel, and it can’t be easy growing up with a moniker that leaves you ripe for ridicule. That, in turn, could lead to the types of hostilities and anger that often manifest themselves in illegal acts.

My initial reaction would be to dismiss the idea as nonsense, but then I came across a recent study that two economists from a place called Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania did in an attempt to answer that very question.

The pair - David Kalist and Daniel Lee – decided to focus on all boys born in one U.S. state between the years of 1987 and 1991. In total, they had a database of 15,012 to work with.

And their findings?

Boys who have less popular, more obscure names are more likely to get involved in criminal activity. And those with more common names – I’ll take a moment to brag that Michael was at the top of their list! – have the best shot at staying out of trouble.

Here are the 10 names they compiled which apparently will have your bundle of joy going straight from the womb into juvie. Link to a full summary of the study can be found HERE

1. Walter

2. Tyrell

3. Preston

4. Malcolm

5. Luke

6. Kareem

7. Ivan

8. Garland

9. Ernest

10. Alex

According to the authors of the study – who didn’t disclose what state they focused on – the explanation is quite simple. They say boys with unpopular names are apparently more likely to live in poverty, have difficulty finding employment, grow up in single-parent households and generally face challenges that the Michaels and Davids of the world often don’t.

The moral of the story? Giving your kid a bad name can be downright criminal.

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About Mike McIntyre

Journalist, national radio show host, author, pundit and cruise director ... Mike McIntyre loves to keep busy.

Mike is the justice reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press, where he has worked since 1997. He produces and hosts the weekly talk radio show Crime and Punishment, which runs on the Corus Radio Network in several Canadian cities.

Born and bred in Winnipeg, Mike graduated from River East Collegiate and completed his journalism studies in the Creative Communications program at Red River College.

He and his wife, Chassity, have two children.

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