The clear value of afterschool programs

Updated 11/8/2019 3:49 PM

Recently, during the 20th annual "Lights On Afterschool" celebrations, we saw firsthand the positive impact of afterschool programs in DuPage County. At a science fair hosted by the DREAM program in West Chicago, students showcased their science projects: volcanoes exploded, magnets collided and a community meal was served.

As law enforcement officials, we see immense value in programs like the one we visited at Leman Middle School. High-quality afterschool programs are proven strategies to prevent crime. They keep kids safe, supervised and socially and academically stimulated during what we call the "prime time for juvenile crime." In fact, a new report from Fight Crime: Invest in Kids shows that, in Illinois, 28% of all juvenile crime occurs during the afterschool hours from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., when many students are left unsupervised.


We know that high-quality afterschool programs help boost academics, improve school attendance and behavior, reduce risky behaviors and cut juvenile crime and victimization. Yet, for every student who can participate in a program like the one we visited, there are two more who unfortunately don't have access to such a program.

That is why we and more than 1,200 other law enforcement leaders throughout the nation sent a letter to the U.S. Congress earlier this year urging robust funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers -- the federal initiative that funds programs like the one in West Chicago. Fight Crime: Invest in Kids has also long called for increased funding for Illinois' Teen REACH program, which supports high-quality afterschool programs all across our state.

Expanding public support for afterschool programs will help kids stay out of trouble, improve public safety and crime prevention efforts, while giving kids a place to find their passions, whether at a science fair, on a basketball court or in an art studio.

Robert Berlin, DuPage County State's Attorney

James Mendrick, DuPage County Sheriff

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