Report: Reducing crime begins with early education

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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- On behalf of 104 members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine and Douglas County Sheriff Timothy Dunning called for more public-private investments in high-quality early learning programs in order to help Nebraska kids – particularly kids ages 0-3 – become productive citizens and reduce crime in the years to come.

“Investing in high-quality early childhood programs is one of the best steps we can take to reduce crime in Nebraska,” said Sheriff Dunning. That’s why he joined Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine in releasing a new report from Fight Crime: Invest in Kids titled, “Reducing Crime Begins with Early Learning.”

The report explores Nebraska’s need for high-quality early learning programs that support kids, help cut crime, and save taxpayer dollars. A study of a Chicago preschool program found participating students had a 29 percent increase in high school graduation rates by age 20 compared to those that did not attend. High school dropouts are three and one-half times more likely than high school graduates to be arrested. In fact, seven out of ten inmates in state prisons nationwide do not have a high school degree.

High-quality early learning programs help children access positive educational and life outcomes while steering them away from destructive cycles of crime. But Nebraska is still behind when it comes to providing these programs to the kids who need it most.

Less than eight percent of at-risk kids in Nebraska have access to high-quality learning programs, and more than 64,000 children under the age of five are at risk of failing in school.

These numbers are alarming, especially considering the current stresses Nebraska prison system faces including overcrowding, violence among inmates, and high turnover of correctional officers. Refusing to invest in these high-quality early learning programs will cost taxpayers more dollars, and fail to reduce crime or boost public safety.

Organizations like Sixpence, a Nebraska early childhood fund that supports quality education programs for at-risk children, provide these programs to children and families – especially during the critical early years of zero to three. But, without adequate funding, Sixpence cannot access all the families who need and would benefit from these programs most. Citing research from the Fight Crime: Invest in Kids report, Sheriff Dunning and Don Kleine urged Nebraska continued investments to support programs like these, thereby putting families and public safety first.

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids is an anti-crime organization of more than 5,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors and violence survivors nationwide, with 104 members in the state of Nebraska. Our mission is to take a hard-nosed look at the research about what really works to prevent kids from becoming criminals, and to inform policymakers and the public about that research.

To learn more and read our report, click here.