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Old 09-26-2009, 06:34 AM
ilbegone ilbegone is offline
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Default Dropout prevention reduces crime

Dropout prevention reduces crime

Redlands Police Chief Jim Bueermann

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I recently had the privilege to attend the White House Conference on Gang Violence and Crime Control with 100 law enforcement leaders, mayors and scholars. Attorney General Eric Holder's key message was that we need to be "smart on crime." Part of being smart on crime means that we attack the problem on all fronts. We need to arrest and lock up criminals. Afterward, we need to intervene - with re-entry support services, like substance abuse and mental health treatment - to keep them from returning to crime after being released.

But most importantly, we need to prevent youth from turning to gangs and crime in the first place. If we merely wait until after crimes are committed, the damage is already done and lives are forever changed. This strategy is also practical as our struggling economy, police forces, corrections and rehabilitation are all taking a hit. To keep our streets safe, we need to get at the root of the problem.

Attacking crime before it happens requires identifying who is most likely to turn to crime. Common sense tells us that high school dropouts are among those most at risk of taking the wrong path. When they first drop out, they are often unsupervised, unstructured and without adult authority figures teaching them right from wrong. Without a school community to belong to, they may be more susceptible to gangs and other bad influences. As they proceed to adulthood, they lack the skills to get a good job, and may turn to crime just to make ends meet.

Statistics back this up. According to Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, high school dropouts are [3<MD+,%30,%55,%70>1/<MD-,%0,%55,%70>2 (electronic gibberish)] times more likely than high school graduates to be arrested, and more than eight times as likely to be in jail or prison. Across the country, 68 percent of state prison inmates do not have a high school diploma. Researchers estimate that a 10 percentage point increase in graduation rates reduces murder and assault rates by about 20 percent, which would prevent 57 murders and over 2,300 aggravated assaults in the Inland Empire each year.

My years of experience on the front lines tell the same story. I can count on one hand the number of career criminals I've come across who were academically successful. Dropping out of school is a precursor to dropping out of a productive life.

This is why the Redlands Police Department puts such a high priority on keeping kids in school. Our school-based School Resource Officers literally pull truant kids out of bed and drive them to school if that's what it takes to keep them in school.

They are part of Redlands Unified School District's School Attendance Review Board (SARB), which meets - in the Police Department's own conference room - with chronic truants and their families to underscore the legal consequences of continuing to skip school and to identify services the family may need to address attendance problems. Last year, RUSD's SARB was recognized by the state Department of Education as a "Model Program for Dropout Prevention."

We also lead the "Parents Project," a 10-week program that teaches parents of strong-willed children techniques to stamp out behavior problems, like truancy, failing grades, drug and alcohol abuse, and gang involvement.

Even in these desperate economic times, the state can help out too. Senate Bill 651 (Romero and Steinberg), currently sitting on the governor's desk, would require the state Department of Education to produce an "Annual Report on Dropouts" that would contain information on dropout rates, graduation rates, pupil promotion rates, course enrollment patterns, truancy and behavioral data. It would help address the dropout crisis by identifying early warning indicators of dropping out, so that schools can effectively target interventions. And it would ensure an ongoing, stronger public focus on the issue of dropout prevention, keeping the issue high on the public radar screen.

The measure also would finally implement an already-enacted measure to discourage schools from giving up on struggling students by letting them drop out or passing them off to alternative schools, so they don't drag down school test scores. Legislation enacted in 2007 addressed this problem by requiring that school Academic Performance Index scores take into account dropout rates and test scores of students transferring into alternative schools. But implementation has been delayed, despite the fact that the state now has the data it needs to move forward.

To truly be "smart on crime," state and local authorities must work together to keep kids in school and off the streets. It's a matter of public safety.

Jim Bueermann is Redlands' chief of police.
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Old 09-26-2009, 09:40 AM
AyatollahGondola's Avatar
AyatollahGondola AyatollahGondola is offline
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We are NEVER going to catch up to the youth drop out or youth gang problem as long as we keep expanding the number of problem youths through immigration and illegal entry. We educate the lateswt batch and thousands more are let in to fill the void
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