Congress should use the budget surplus to expand Head Start and other early childhood development initiatives and after-school programs, a group of national and local law enforcement executives urged yesterday.
Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a nonprofit organization of 550 law enforcement officials and crime survivors, has written Congress asking for new funding for Head Start, day-care programs, parenting classes, family counseling and delinquency prevention efforts.
If Congress passes tax cuts instead of investing in children, "we'll be looking at a crime wave the likes of which we've never seen before," Sanford A. Newman, the organization's president, said at a news conference outside the District's Alice Deal Junior High School.
The group released the results of two polls conducted this summer that found that 74 percent of the respondents would be willing to pay more taxes or forgo a tax cut in order to provide greater access to after-school and early childhood development programs to combat youth violence. Each survey polled about 1,000 people.
Two-thirds of those polled said initiatives that deter youth violence are a greater national priority than cutting taxes; 81 percent said violence prevention programs are as important as efforts to punish or incarcerate young offenders.
Arlington Police Chief Edward A. Flynn and D.C. Executive Assistant Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer endorsed the findings of both polls.
"We invest far too little in our kids," said Gainer, who was director of the Illinois State Police before coming to the District last year. He said his oldest son, an FBI agent, and his second-oldest son, a Cook County, Ill., prosecutor, are "now locking up the grandchildren" of people Gainer arrested as a rookie officer in Chicago.
"We need to do something about making sure our kids don't have run-ins with law enforcement," Gainer added, noting that preventive rather than reactive efforts are a key element in community policing. "Prevention is the only solution," he said.
The group's recommendations also have been endorsed by the Major Cities Chiefs and the Police Executive Research Forum, Newman said.
In the District, police have been working with school officials and security guards to document disputes among children, according to Assistant Chief Brian K. Jordan, who said, "Many of the incidents either carry over from school to the streets or from streets to the school."
Jordan said school safety coordinators met last week with conflict resolution experts and members of the police emergency response team to discuss how to prevent school violence and keep school buildings closed to people who don't belong there.