Some of Nebraska's political and law enforcement leaders traveled all the way to the Nation's Capital in an effort to stamp out crime, especially among the country's youth.
Law enforcement executives from the state of Nebraska traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with U.S. Senators Ben Nelson (D-ME) and Mike Johanns (R-NE) Wednesday. They expressed their support for evidence-based approaches to fighting crime by helping kids get the right start in life and keeping them on track.
In their meetings on Capitol Hill, Scottsbluff Chief Alex Moreno and Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine called on Senator Johanns and Senator Nelson to support high-quality early care and education, programs for school aged kids that keep them away from crime, and screenings and interventions that help troubled kids get back on track.
“There’s no substitute for tough prosecution when it comes to dangerous offenders,” County Attorney Kleine said. “However, the research also clearly shows that intervening and helping kids get the right start in life not only helps them succeed in school. It also can significantly reduce the likelihood that they will commit crimes as adults.”
A long-term study of Michigan’s Perry Preschool found that children who did not attend the high-quality program were five times more likely to be chronic offenders than children who did participate.
By age 40, the kids who did not attend the program were seven times more likely to be arrested for possession of dangerous drugs, four times more likely to be arrested for drug felonies, and twice as likely to be arrested for violent crimes than those who participated.
Despite the proven potential of high-quality early education, programs like Head Start, Early Head Start, and quality child care remain underfunded. Nationally, Head Start only serves about half of the low-income three- and four-year-olds eligible for the program, while Early Head Start serves less than five percent of the eligible babies and toddlers.
Fewer than one in seven eligible children in low-income, working families receives support for child care through the Child Care and Development Block Grant.
Chief Moreno and County Attorney Kleine asked Senator Nelson and Senator Johanns to support increased investment in high-quality early care and education programs to reduce later crime.
The law enforcement leaders also recommended high-quality programs for school-age youth, both in and out of school, and evidence-based interventions for troubled kids as other effective approaches to improve public safety.
Between the hours of 3 and 6 p.m. on school days, juvenile crime soars when many kids are unsupervised. High quality after-school programs teach kids skills and values while cutting crime.
A study of Boys & Girls clubs showed that housing projects without the clubs had 50 percent more vandalism and 37 percent worse drug activity than projects with the clubs.
“A young person who drops out of school and grows up to become a career criminal can cost taxpayers millions,” said Chief Moreno. “Compared to a lifetime of incarceration, the cost of these crime-prevention programs is a bargain.”
There are also effective programs involving mental health treatment or interventions with high-risk youth and their families that can help prevent repeat offenses. For kids who have already become involved in crime, intensive family therapy approaches such as Multisystemic Therapy or Functional Family Therapy can help reduce recidivism and problem behaviors.
The law enforcement leaders are members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national anti-crime organization of police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors and violence survivors with 78 members in Nebraska and over 5,000 nationwide.