Retired Arizona Police Chiefs Release Report on How Quality Early Care and Education Reduces Future Crime

Oct 25, 2010, 15:24 ET from Fight Crime: Invest in Kids

Sixteen law enforcement leaders sign letter urging Arizonans to say no on Proposition 302

PHOENIX, Oct. 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Speaking on behalf of law enforcement leaders across Arizona, two retired police chiefs in the Phoenix area held a news conference today at Phoenix Day, the oldest continuously operating child development center in Arizona, to oppose Proposition 302. The ballot initiative would terminate dedicated funding for Arizona's First Things First early childhood programs.

Retired Mesa Police Chief Dennis Donna and Retired Paradise Valley Police Chief John Wintersteen announced the launch of a new website,, that includes a new report by the national non-profit Fight Crime: Invest in Kids showing that investing in high-quality early care and education in Arizona can significantly reduce crime in the future.  

The website also includes an open letter signed by 16 current and retired Arizona law enforcement leaders urging voters to vote no on Proposition 302. The letter, representing the personal views of senior law enforcement officials, urges Arizonans to vote no on Proposition 302 on the grounds that high-quality early childhood programs help kids get the right start and also improve public safety in the long run.

"We need to invest in the education and development of today's most at-risk kids, so they don't become tomorrow's high-risk offenders," said Donna. "We support First Things First, and urge voters to vote no on Prop 302. Slashing early care and education programs for our youngest kids will increase the risk of crime and threaten our future public safety."

First Things First supports a range of services that help at-risk kids get the right start in life and start school well-prepared. These interventions include coaching for pregnant mothers and new parents; high-quality early education and care; and appropriate screening and treatment for young children already showing serious behavioral problems.

"The bottom line: It's a lot better to open a school door than to slam shut a prison cell. That's why First Things First is a powerful crime-fighting investment that we support. It should be continued," Wintersteen said.

The research is very clear that early intervention with young children from birth to age five help improve health and educational development and also significantly reduce the likelihood that they will commit serious crimes as adults.

A long-term study of Michigan's Perry Preschool found that at-risk children who did not participate in the high-quality program were five times more likely to be chronic offenders by age 27 than children who did attend. By age 40, the kids who were left out of the program were seven times more likely to be arrested for possession of dangerous drugs, four times more likely to be arrested for drug felonies, and twice as likely to be arrested for violent crimes than those who participated. The kids who attended were also 44 percent more likely to graduate from high school than the kids who were left out.

Research shows that parent coaching programs, such as the Nurse-Family Partnership programs supported through First Things First funding, can cut in half rates of child abuse and neglect, and also cut in half the number of criminal convictions among the children who received the program.

The law enforcement officials also agree that eliminating First Things First would be short-sighted and unwise; investing in quality early care and education programs actually save money in the long run. The Perry Preschool Program cut crime, welfare and other costs so much that it saved taxpayers more than $16 for every $1 invested including more than $11 in crime-related savings.

"Intervening with at-risk kids and affording them greater educational opportunities will improve public safety in the long run," Wintersteen said. "Voters should reject Proposition 302 so we can keep funding for programs that will help more Arizona kids get the right start, cutting crime in the long run and making our state safer."

Dennis Donna and John Wintersteen are retired police chiefs who are active members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national anti-crime organization of police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors, attorneys general and violence survivors, with 53 members in Arizona and over 5,000 members nationwide.

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids prepared this news release and opposition letter. The distribution of these materials was paid for by Save First Things First - No on 302.  Major funding from APS, Ak-Chin Indian Community, Arizona School Boards Association, Tohono O'Odham Nation and the Salt River Pima Indian Community. Fight Crime: Invest in Kids accepts no state or federal funding and does not operate or provide any direct services.

SOURCE Fight Crime: Invest in Kids