High quality early education reduces future crime

Collectively, we have worked in law enforcement for more than 80 years. One of the most difficult responsibilities we have had — any law enforcement officer ever has — is to lead investigations of violent crimes that involve children.

It has been our responsibility to meet with parents and tell them that their teenager or child was the victim of a violent crime. As law enforcement officers and as parents, we can tell you there is nothing more heartbreaking than to see a child hurt — and in extreme cases killed — by a senseless act of violence. As a nation, we are grappling with this again as we watch our law enforcement brethren, families and the community of Newtown, Conn., try to sort out the devastation of 26 murders.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have also had the responsibility to inform a parent that their teen was the suspect in a violent crime.

Each case is a tragedy.

We know how to help protect at-risk youth. We don’t want them to be victimized by violence — and we don’t want to see them carry out acts of violence in our communities.

We know that the education of our children is their ticket to a better life. From a law enforcement perspective, it is also critical for our future public safety.

When we consider the fact that Maine spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year to house, feed and provide supervision for our incarcerated criminals, it is clear that we need to find a way to get our corrections costs under control. There is no substitute for tough law enforcement, but we must do more to establish and improve programs that prevent at-risk kids from engaging in criminal activity.

One way or another, we pay for at-risk kids. Either we pay on the front end by providing them a solid chance to succeed, or we pay a lot more for later failure. Providing more at-risk kids with quality early learning opportunities will help us prevent crime and reduce costly prison and jail costs for years to come.

The need to get this right is great. Picture this: there are approximately 82,000 children under age 6 in Maine. More than 70 percent of these children live in households with all parents working. These young children spend time in some type of non-parent child care each week.

We know how important the early years are. That is why it is vital to make sure that early care and education is high quality. Kids need adequately trained and compensated professionals to take care of them and guide them in the classroom. They need curriculum that is appropriate for their age. They need access to screenings for early learning disabilities or developmental issues.

If we get quality right, there is a huge return on investment. For instance, long-term studies of the Perry Preschool Program in Michigan show that it reduced crime, welfare and other costs so much that it saved society an average of $180,000 for every child served, with the vast majority of the public savings coming from reduced crime costs alone. High-quality early learning is a proven way to save scarce taxpayer dollars — something we cannot afford to overlook with today’s tight budgets.

The need for high-quality early learning opportunities nationwide and in Maine is great. Less than 28 percent of Maine’s youngsters in poverty were served by Head Start in 2010.

When it comes to making sure Maine’s kids get a great start, we cannot and should not skimp on early care and education. Quality is absolutely the key factor for getting the best results. We know, and research has proven, that if we give early care and education the proper support, we will have fewer dropouts, less crime and safer communities, and the investment will pay off many times over.

As policymakers launch new sessions, both in Washington and Augusta, we urge each and every one of them to make increasing the quality of and access to federal and state early care and education a high priority.

Michael Bussiere is Lewiston's chief of police; Philip Crowell Jr. is Auburn's chief of police; and Guy Desjardins is Androscoggin County sheriff.

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MARK GRAVEL's picture

Who will pay when the

Who will pay when the taxpayers are already strapped?

RONALD RIML's picture

Gun Owners

With their annual per gun tax.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

The Federal Government does

The Federal Government does not know who owns what and how many guns, so Einstein, how can this foolishness be enforced?

Jim Cyr's picture

High Quality

two parent family life reduces future crimes. Of which " at-risk youth "are not a product of a such family environment. And certainly not the responsibility of schools with their tight budgets trying to teach those that are there to learn. The Constitutional duties of Washington has no responsibilities in our local schools. They have enough problems as is. With them removing God from all aspects of society, it's no wonder we have such an increase of " at-risk youth ". Don't let your child get caught with an aspirin in school, but your daughter can get an abortion without your permission. We need to be more responsible for our own and not rely on Big Brother.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Well said Jim - Kudos.

Well said Jim - Kudos.

RONALD RIML's picture

Thanks for the 'Non-Solution' - Jim

Realists deal with the problem at hand, not the overall problems they view with society.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

How about placing at-risk

How about placing at-risk kids with new parents if you want reality.

RONALD RIML's picture

You're on the list for Adoptions......

That takes a special type of person.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Yes, I'm actually in the

Yes, I'm actually in the process of adopting now. Poor kid has liberal parents.

RONALD RIML's picture

You'll be able to whittle him down to fighting trim in no time..

And get rid of all your 'Illegal" yard help......

"Please, Master, may I have some more gruel"

MARK GRAVEL's picture

I have no illegal yard help.

I have no illegal yard help. I do all my yard work on all my properties. I actually enjoy the physical activity.
By the looks of things – your pot belly – no gruel for you.

RONALD RIML's picture

You've been looking again......

You guys from California know no boundaries.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

I don't live an California

I don't live an California anymore. Go east one state.

JOANNE MOORE's picture

Thank you, gentlemen.

As a parent and grandmother, may I say that I am very concerned with this idea about having weapons in schools. I do not want the children to be taught fear or to think the only way to solve problems is with a gun.

Thank you for your dedicated service.


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