Law enforcement delegation urges support for early childhood care and education, voluntary home-visiting to prevent child abuse, reduce crime and save money
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 19, 2012
Contact: Ted Eismeier, [email protected]
Phone: 202-464-5350, Cell: 315-335-9222
SANTA FE, N.M. (March 19, 2012) — Does New Mexico’s fight against crime start with earlier educational opportunities for kids and stopping child abuse? Yes, according to New Mexico law enforcement leaders meeting today with Gov. Susana Martinez (R). They say that investing in these services for the youngest kids will help improve public safety and save taxpayer dollars
The group met with Gov. Martinez in Santa Fe to stress their support for early childhood education from birth to age five and voluntary home visiting services for at-risk families as a way to boost community safety. Participating in the meeting were Rio Rancho Director of Public Safety Robert Boone, District Attorney Matthew Chandler (R) of the 9th Judicial District, Los Lunas Chief of Police Roy Melnick and District Attorney Amy Orlando (R) of the 3rd Judicial District. Los Lunas Deputy Chief Dave Gurule and Lieutenant Naithan Gurule also participated in the meeting.
“As a D.A. and the son of a career police officer, I know that nipping crime in the bud is far easier and a whole lot cheaper than the cost of prosecution and incarceration,” D.A. Chandler said. “The best way for us to prevent crime is to invest in proven services that help kids get a safe and healthy start in life and a strong foundation for educational success.”
The group recognized Gov. Martinez, who formerly served as district attorney for the 3rd Judicial District, for her dedication to public safety. They thanked Gov. Martinez for recently approving a budget that included funding increases for a variety of early childhood development resources, and applauded her education reform initiative to ensure that all kids are reading by third grade.
Children who participated in New Mexico’s PreK program, which was launched in 2005, answered an average of 24 percent more questions correctly on a literacy test. An evaluation of the fourth year of the program found that early literacy scores for participants were much higher on average than scores for non-participants.
“As a police chief and a parent of young children, I believe that building early childhood education in New Mexico is vital for our future and our quality of life,” Chief Melnick said. “The research shows that we can improve early reading skills and then prevent many kids from dropping out of school and becoming criminals. We need to invest the necessary resources up-front in the education of young children ages birth to five.”
New Mexico PreK served 4,400 children in the 2011 fiscal year for a cost of $15.3 million. However, the program serves less than one out of every five of the state’s 4-year-olds, so there is still significant room for serving more eligible children.
Noting that law enforcement leaders nationwide will be participating in a Campaign for Child Abuse Prevention in April, the group also spoke in support of voluntary home visiting services that can help break the cycle of abuse and neglect that affects every community. Survivors of abuse or neglect often carry emotional scars for life, and research has shown they are almost 30 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime. The cycle of abuse can also continue, with evidence suggesting that an estimated one third of adults with a history of abuse may harm their own children.
Several parent education and home visitation models are active in New Mexico, including the Born to Learn/Parents as Teachers Program, Healthy Families America, the Nurse-Family Partnership and the First Born program for first-time parents. Still, these quality, voluntary home visitation services cannot reach many of the at-risk pregnant mothers and new parents who would benefit.
A study of one program model, the Nurse-Family Partnership program, compared at-risk children whose mothers received visits with similar children whose families were not served. Children in participating families were half as likely to be abused or neglected. By age 15, youth whose families did not participate in the program had more than twice as many arrests. One site of the quality nurse home visitation program found significantly fewer cases of childhood injury and child mortality among families who participated.
The D.A.’s and police leaders are members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national anti-crime organization of more than 5,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors and violence survivors nationwide, including 62 in New Mexico.