Courtesy Tom Weitzel

Springfield, IL- Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel joined other police chiefs and sheriffs in Springfield Wednesday to express deepening concern to lawmakers over continued cuts to programs for children that prevent crime.

As legislators begin budget deliberations, the law enforcement leaders met with legislative leaders to urge that no further cuts are made to the state’s preschool program, and expressed alarm that 22,000 children have been cut from the state preschool program since 2009.

“We’re losing years of progress.” said Chief Weitzel. “Some of those kids will be playing catch-up for the rest of their education, and we know from research that in a decade that will be bad news for public safety.”

The law enforcement leaders represented over 300 law enforcement leaders who are members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Illinois, an anti-crime organization that advocates for evidence-based investments in programs for kids that are proven to cut crime and violence. They met with House Minority Leader Tom Cross, Senate President John Cullerton, House Human Services Appropriations Committee Chair Rep. Greg Harris, House Elementary and Secondary Education Appropriations Committee Chair Rep. Will Davis, and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno.

To keep kids away from crime and violence, the group urged that the FY 2014 state budget reflect comprehensive strategy by funding and protecting strategies that work:

  • Protect funding for preschool. Law enforcement’s experience and rigorous research supports the value of preschool. A study of the Perry Preschool in Michigan tracked at-risk children who attended the program and similar children left out until age 40. At age 27, those left out as children were five times more likely to have been arrested for drug felonies and twice as likely to have been arrested for violent crimes. The program saved $17 for every $1 invested, including $11 in crime savings.
  • Expand Redeploy Illinois. The juvenile justice program Redeploy Illinois allows counties to provide appropriate accountability and supportive services to juvenile offenders in their own communities as an alternative to sending them to corrections facilities. Recent data shows that juvenile offenders in participating counties re-offend at significantly lower low rates—around 14 percent— while juvenile offenders sent to corrections facilities re-offend at a rate of 52%. In his budget proposal, Governor Quinn included an expansion of Redeploy Illinois.
  • Maintain funding levels for home visiting programs to prevent child abuse and neglect. The group also urged the General Assembly not to cut key child abuse and neglect prevention programs in the Illinois Department of Human Services budget. Cuts to these home visiting programs, known as Healthy Families and Parents Too Soon, would put Illinois in danger of losing up to $30 million in federal funding. Voluntary home visiting programs, which provide coaching to at-risk new parents, cut child abuse and future crime. A study of the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP), a model home visiting program, found that the program cut child abuse and neglect in half and reduced kids’ and mothers’ later arrests by about 60 percent.

FIGHT CRIME: INVEST IN KIDS ILLINOIS is the state office of a national, non-profit bipartisan, anti-crime organization of more than 5,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors, leaders of law enforcement organizations, and victims of crime. It has over 300 members in Illinois.