Law enforcement calls the after-school hours the “prime time for juvenile crime.” That’s because juvenile crime peaks between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., when too many kids are unsupervised while parents are still at work. 

That’s why kids need to be in safe, stable, supervised environments outside of the regular school day.

For example, in Cicero, there is an effective, high-quality after-school program that uses the Teen REACH model at Corazon Community Services. Teen REACH is Illinois’ primary after-school program. But it’s in jeopardy. 

Governor Rauner proposed eliminating funding for Teen REACH in fiscal year 2016. And in March, the Illinois Department of Human Services suspended funding Teen REACH and other programs, effective immediately.

While I certainly recognize our state leaders have tough choices to make, we also know that Teen REACH is an asset to communities across the state. Kids who participate receive academic support, skill-building, and help developing the social skills they need to succeed without resorting to violence. For many youth, this program provides important stability and mentoring that is lacking in other areas of their lives. 

 At an average cost of $600 per youth served, Teen REACH has achieved remarkable outcomes. For students participating in the 2012 school year, 99.3 percent of Teen REACH high school seniors graduated, compared with an 86 percent statewide average. Additionally, 93 percent of Teen REACH students tracked improved their grades while 81 percent improved their school attendance.

There is no doubt that law enforcement jobs would be even more difficult if not for after-school programs. Illinois state leaders should make every effort to keep Teen REACH in place and ensure that the 14,000 youth currently enrolled in the program have a safe place to go after school.

Tom Weitzel, chief of police