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Fight Crime, Invest in Kids. That's the message today from Salt Lake area law enforcement, and they're hoping our federal government is listening.
They cite statistics showing quality childcare and after school programs are essential to keep kids on the straight and narrow.
Thirteen years ago this September, 22 year old Brian Watkins of Provo was stabbed to death by eight young gang members in front of his family on a New York City Subway.
Today his parents still can't get the images out of their minds, and they don't want to, not until things change here in Utah and across the country. Now while their case is extreme, they are convinced more support for young people will mean less violent crime.
Karen Watkins: "There was one boy who was on trial for the murder of our son; he never had anyone show up to the court to support him. Even when he was sentenced there was no one there.”
Unfortunately, police say that's a scenario all too common. Kids get caught up in a life of crime because of a lack of direction or guidance -- something good childcare, and after school programs could provide if parents can afford it.
That's why Sheriff Aaron Kennard is calling on legislators to back a big boost in federal child care funding -- 55 million dollars over the next five years -- a boost that would net Utah almost $55 million over the next five years.
Aaron Kennard/Sheriff, Salt Lake County: "We figure that 30 to 40 percent of the crime that is happening in your community is happening by these youngsters that have nothing more to do than go out and prowl the neighborhoods.”
Bottom line, experts say quality childcare cuts crime.
Aaron Kennard/Sheriff, Salt Lake County: "We need to invest in our children. We need to invest in their lives from the time they are tiny and I think if they do that we’re going to help these children who have nowhere to go after school.”
The push at the federal level will be for a $5.5 billion increase nationwide, $55 million of that would go to Utah to help make child care more affordable here. Currently Utah is below the national average when it comes to providing affordable childcare.