As Illinois closed its third month without a state budget, I recently joined other suburban law enforcement leaders to meet with Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Secretary James Dimas. Our aim was to let Secretary Dimas know that we see human services programs as critical to cutting crime and ensuring communities are free from violence. 

IDHS programs have been hit particularly hard by the current state budget impasse. Our state’s social service and non-profit infrastructure has been rocked at its very foundation by lack of adequate funding. Continuing to ask these organizations to carry on without a state budget is asking for the impossible.

Law enforcement leaders are particularly concerned with maintaining IDHS-funded programs like: 

Healthy Families and Parents Too Soon, which can prevent child abuse and neglect by providing coaching for at-risk parents of infants and toddlers 

Teen REACH, the only state-funded after-school program based on a specific youth development model with excellent academic and behavioral outcomes.

The Child Care Assistance Program, which helps keep adults employed and kids in safe environments — two factors that are essential to public safety.

Redeploy Illinois, which dramatically cuts repeat arrests among troubled youth who have already headed down the wrong path.

Unfortunately, far too many child care centers, home visiting programs and after-school programs have been forced to close their doors, lay off staff, and cease services to our state’s most vulnerable children.

Without these efforts, we will be effectively sending police officers out on the streets to fight crime with one hand tied behind their backs. That’s why police chiefs, sheriffs and state’s attorneys from across the state are committed to partnering with the Illinois Department of Human Services to ensure these key programs stay in place.

I strongly urge our state leaders to resolve this standoff and get back to the work of helping law enforcement make Illinois a safe place to grow up.

Thomas Weitzel, police chief

Riverside