KC Police Chief Asks Congress to Invest in Juvenile Programs

February 15, 2007
by SAM HANANEL
Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Congress should spend more money on programs that help keep children from becoming criminals, Kansas City, Mo., Police Chief James Corwin told federal lawmakers on Thursday.

“Law enforcement leaders like myself know better than anyone that we cannot arrest and imprison our way out of the crime problem,” Corwin told the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security.

Corwin said targeted investments that help young people get a good start in life and redirect juvenile offenders onto a different path can prevent crime.

The congressional panel heard testimony from Corwin and other crime prevention experts who urged lawmakers to support so-called “carrot and stick” programs for dangerous young offenders.

Intensive police supervision, greater access to jobs, drug treatment programs and therapy to change anti-social behavior can help cut homicides rates in high-crime neighborhoods, said Corwin, who cited research from the nonpartisan Washington-based group Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.

Other juvenile offenders, Corwin said, can benefit from foster care programs that pair offenders with specially trained foster parents.

Law enforcement agencies arrested 2.2 million youths in 2003. Corwin said about 500,000 a year could benefit from intervention programs, but due to a lack of funding, only 34,000 juveniles are involved in the programs.

Overall, violent crime is at a 30-year low, but data suggests that a number of cities are starting to experience rising violence, said Jeffrey Butts, a senior researcher at the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago.

“We have to intervene earlier with youthful offenders,” Butts said. “We cannot wait until a young person is already involved in serious and violent crime and then try to stop it. Waiting is not only ineffective, it’s expensive.”

Over 600 state and federal programs claim to deter violence, drug use or delinquent behavior, but less than 20 percent of them are backed by evidence showing they work, said Delbert Elliot, director of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence University of Colorado.

Elliot urged lawmakers to reallocate money currently being spent on “defective” programs to worthwhile efforts, such as life skills training programs shown to cut the onset of illicit drug use among middle schools students.

Corwin said some states, like Missouri, have solid records of reducing juvenile crime rates by trying to change anti-social behavior, but he said more federal funds would help.

One measure Corwin supports is the Education Begins at Home Act, which would provide money for in-home parent coaching programs for at-risk families. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., introduced the measure in 2005 but it did not get out of committee. A spokesman for Bond said the senator plans to offer the legislation again this year.

Corwin also urged Congress to fully fund Head Start and Early Head Start programs, increase funding for community learning centers and pass legislation to help states pay for juvenile offender re-entry programs.

Copyright Kansas City Star