BENTON, Ark. – Wednesday, law enforcement officials announced the launch of a new program called ‘Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.’ The program aims to improve Pre-K programs in Arkansas for economic benefits and to reduce future crimes.
The program launch was announced by Benton Police Chief Kirk Lane, Little Rock Police Department Chief Kenton Buckner and Pulaski County Sheriff Doc Holladay.
“As a police chief and law enforcement leader, it is important to fight crimes in many different aspects,” Chief Lane said. “It’s not only about jumping out the [patrol] car and catching the bad guys. It’s also about learning how to invest in our future and curb crime before it ever starts. Developing children in Pre-K takes us through that route.”
“It’s a great investment for the kids, and more importantly what does it do for the future of the communities we serve? It can inspire them to serve better,” Chief Lane added.
Chief Lane said a cost-benefit analysis of nearly 20 different studies of pre-K programs showed that preschool can return, on average, a profit to society of more than $29,000 for every child served.
“With 25,000 children currently being served by pre-K in Arkansas, our state will reap a return of more than $725 million over the lifetime of these children,” Chief Lane said. “But for that to happen, we must ensure that the pre-K programs being offered are of high quality. These economic benefits accrue largely due to reductions in the cost of future crime and increases in participants’ future wages.”
Mandla Deskins, senior associate with ‘Fight Crime: Invest in Kids,’ said the national program founded in 1996 is an anti-crime organization made up of more than 5,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors and violence survivors nationwide, with 67 members in Arkansas. He said the program’s mission is to “Help kids by using the most up-to-date research about what really works to help prevent them from becoming criminals and to inform policymakers and the public about that research.”
Deskins said the $725 million state savings can be achieved by increasing compensation for teachers, offering them and their aides more training and professional development and providing children and their families with more resources to take advantage of the programs. He said the program will also benefit less child abuse and neglect cases, better school performance, fewer high school dropouts, and fewer crimes committed – resulting in few prisoners.
Chief Buckner said it is an officer’s job to keep communities safe and their number one priority is to protect the public.
“But, we know from personal experience and research that we can’t simply arrest, prosecute and incarcerate our way out of crime problems in our state,” Chief Buckner said. “We know there has to be a better way to keep people from turning to crime in the first place. Education – especially early education – has to be a key plank in that strategy.”
Chief Buckner said across the nation, 7 out of 10 state prison inmates did not graduate from high school.
“That is a pricey problem for the state of Arkansas where we spend more than $574 million a year to incarcerate nearly 18,000 adults,” Chief Buckner said. “That’s not including the cost of county jails. These are troubling numbers that have a dramatic impact on our communities. I see it every day with people who come into our jails who can barely read or write.”
Chief Buckner said that the path to school failure and criminal behavior is often paved in a child’s earliest years. He said without a solid foundation on which to build math and literacy skills, “Kids stumble over and over again as the years and grades go by … they become frustrated and lose confidence.”
“About 15 percent of our high school students in Arkansas fail to graduate on time and many of those who drop out become involved in crime,” Chief Buckner said. “In fact, 7 out of 10 federal prisoners do not have a high school diploma.”
Sheriff Holladay said there were two landmark studies of low-income children who participated in high quality preschool programs for decades and tracked their progress into adulthood. One is the Chicago Child-Parent Centers program and the other is Michigan’s Perry Preschool program. Both programs led to sharp reductions in the number of children who ended up in jail or prison later in life, Sheriff Holladay said.
“By age 18, children not served by the Chicago CPC program were 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime,” he said. “And, by age 24, those who were served by the program were 20 percent less likely to have served time in a jail or prison. By age 27, children not served by the Perry Preschool program were five times more likely to be chronic offenders, with five or more arrests.”
“The bottom line is that these programs have been cited again and again because they show the tremendous long-term benefits that high-quality Pre-K can have on the children who participate,” he added.
Chief Lane added, “As law enforcement officers we are urging Arkansas policymakers to invest in improving the quality of our state’s pre-K program. If Arkansas continues to invest wisely in high quality Pre-K opportunities for at-risk children, thousands of them can become successful, productive adults instead of wasting their potential and costing taxpayers dearly for the costs of crime. We must continue to invest and improve upon programs that work because Arkansas’ children deserve nothing less.”
For more information about the Fight Crime: Invest In Kids program, click here.