A group of Illinois law enforcement leaders are looking to invest in early child care services to reduce future crime.
“Fight Crime: Invest in Kids” is a nonprofit based in Illinois that consists of state police, prosecutors and survivors of violence. The group is calling on state lawmakers to increase funding for child care programs and services to help families in rural Illinois get the help they need for their children.
“We at Fight Crime, our law enforcement leaders, have joined with a lot of other partners in calling for a 10% increase in FY23 state resources for these programs,” Illinois State Director Sean Noble said. “What that works out to is about $100 million.”
According to a report from the nonprofit, nearly 20% of children in rural Illinois live in poverty, and only about half of the children in low-income families receive early care and education services.
The goal of the funding is to connect these children with the resources they need to start their lives on the right path.
“When kids start off in school lagging behind their peers, it takes much more time, energy, effort and resources to help them catch up,” Noble explained.
According to research from the Chicago Child-Parent Center Program that addresses early childhood problems like abuse neglect, participants were 70% less likely than nonparticipant peers to be arrested for a violent crime later in life.
Williamson County State Attorney and Fight Crime member Brandon Zanotti said that early care services from birth to age 5 are severely lacking in rural Illinois due to population loss and socio-economic issues.
“I joined Fight Crime in 2014 out of a concern for the kids and families I served in Southern Illinois. I’ve always believed that stopping crime starts with education and opportunities at a young age. Simply put, I do not want to see more young people wind up in the courtroom as either offenders or victims of crime. I want to see our families thrive … Rural Illinois’ pressing challenges include a shortage of the quality accessible child care options that our kids and families need in order to thrive,” he said.
Law enforcement officials hope the funds will go to programs like Birth to Five Illinois, which aims to bring individuals, groups and community leaders together to create a plan to provide early care services for children and their families.
Members of Birth to Five will include law enforcement officials, elected officials, business owners, educators and community members.
Local law enforcement officials believe that childhood services in rural areas are lacking compared to metro areas, which could foster crime in the future.
“In the rural areas, there are a lack of resources. We do have some community-based organizations that help in some of these areas, but we need more,” Macomb Chief of Police Jerel Jones told KHQA News.
Jones said that the efforts would tackle the root cause of crime. Ultimately, he hopes more funding will increase the quality of life in small towns.
“When we see those retail thefts and burglaries on the rise, it’s really answering a bigger question, and us having to focus our resources on the root cause of this,” Jones said.