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Local law enforcement joins state efforts to help at-risk youth
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Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson and Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse II traveled to the state capital last week to join numerous other law enforcement officials in support of funding aimed at helping at-risk youth.

Members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national anti-crime organization of police chiefs, sheriffs, district attorneys and victim advocates with 400 members in California and close to 5,000 members nationwide, participated in individual meetings with over 20 key policymakers and administration officials Wednesday at the capital. The members were there to lobby for the support of funding for programs, like after-school and early education programs that have proven to help steer kids away from crime and stay in school.

“Research consistently shows that kids who receive high-quality early care and education are more likely to graduate from high school and less likely to ever become involved in crime,” said Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California State Director Brian Lee. “We’re fortunate to have so many law enforcement leaders and victim advocates as members who recognize this and work to support policies and funding for early education and other evidence-based programs that help keep kids off the streets and away from crime.”

The members were specifically seeking support for SB 645, which would help sustain the quality of after-school programs throughout California by raising per student funding to $8.50 per day. The funding has remained at $7.50 per day since 2006.

Numerous studies have concluded that after-school programs can help cut crime in the short term by keeping kids supervised and off the streets between the hours of 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. These hours are often referred to as the “prime time” for juvenile crime, since these are the peak hours on school days for kids to be engaged in, or become victims of, violent crime. Research shows that young people are more likely to experiment with drugs, alcohol and associate with gang members when left unsupervised after school.

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids makes the point that after-school programs can also cut crime in the long run by improving student engagement and performance in the classroom, which helps boost attendance and graduation rates. It is estimated that a 10-percentage-point increase in high school graduation rates would reduce violent crimes by 20 percent, and could prevent approximately 400 murders and 20,000 aggravated assaults annually in California.

The members were also there to encourage lawmakers to follow through on a promise made in last year’s budget to provide early education for all low-income 4-year-olds. Over 30,000 slots are still needed, and at least $100 million in funding is required to provide 10,000 new preschool slots in the current budget cycle. They also urged policymakers to support AB 47, a bill which would require the California Department of Education to develop a plan for expanding the state preschool program for all eligible low-income children in California.