Budget impasse threatening public safety

As the president of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, I am very concerned that the budget impasse in Springfield is sidelining some of the most effective, research-proven tools our state has for ensuring at-risk adolescents get off to the best start in life - and avoid later involvement in crime and violence.

We are nearing 11 months into the current fiscal year without a complete state budget and as a result, critical human services programs are closing every day. Without proven efforts like Healthy Families, Teen REACH, Redeploy Illinois and Comprehensive Community Based Youth Services that serve youth and families, the criminal justice system becomes a catchall for social problems.

This is decidedly unacceptable for vulnerable young people, for families who need appropriate services, and for taxpayers. There is no doubt that the failure to provide these services is putting an enormous burden on our jails, courtrooms, and law enforcement agencies - a burden that's far more expensive than these time-honored, crime-prevention strategies.

As an example, home visiting programs that offer "parent coaching" to young at-risk families have been found to significantly reduce child abuse and neglect. But we've historically only been able to reach one out of every 10 infants and toddlers who could qualify for this critical, developmental help.

I'm certain that we can all agree that sacrificing public safety is not a prescription for a safe and prosperous future for any of our communities. We strongly urge our state leaders to set aside their differences, end the budget impasse, and set about on the important work of adopting a complete budget for the next fiscal year.

Police Chief Steven Casstevens, Buffalo Grove

President, Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police

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