Law enforcement: Early education is powerful crime-fighting tool

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Fight Crime: Invest in Kids. For the 5,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, and prosecutors across the country who are members of that organization, it's a no brainer. They say by investing in early childhood education, Mississippi could keep more people out of our jails, and ultimately save millions of dollars.

Biloxi Police Chief John Miller told media representatives Thursday, "When at risk kids succeed our communities are safer. Cops Just know it. Cops see it all the time. A high number of people that we arrest, are going to be either dropouts of high school or even junior high school dropouts."

A national organization known as "Fight Crime: Invest in Kids" is sharing research with Mississippi lawmakers, proving early education has a profound impact on reducing crime.

Miriam Rollin, Vice President of the organization points to a recent study in Michigan.

"As the Michigan study showed, the kids left out of the perry preschool program were five times more likely to be chronic lawbreakers by age 27, which means five or more arrests. That's a significant crime reduction."

It's also a powerful tool in garnering support for Mississippi's first state-funded pre-K program. Both the house and senate have passed versions of a bill that would provide a pilot pre-K program for four year olds.

"We're very excited about this moment in time, this opportunity to put Mississippi on the map for the first time as a state that invests in high quality early childhood education," says Miriam.

Quality is a key part of that equation. Rollin says without monitoring class sizes, or teaching young students to understand and respect authority using an evidence-based curriculum, it just won't work.

"Without high quality you're not going to get the results in terms of school readiness, later school success, increasing graduation rates, and reducing crime rates."

Local law enforcement leaders agree: If they can keep one more person out of our prisons it, would be a win for Mississippi.

One more statistic from Fight Crime: Invest in Kids - For every child who drops out of school, uses drugs and becomes a career criminal, he or she costs society on average $2.5 million over a lifetime.

House and Senate members have until the end of the month to reach a compromise on the Pre-K bills, before it goes to the governor.