Afterschool and summer learning are solutions for public safety

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Afterschool and summer learning are solutions for public safety

The National League of Cities recently released a series of briefs (two of which we described in a previous blog post) including “Afterschool and Summer Learning: A City Strategy for Public Safety,” which highlights afterschool programs as a cost-effective prevention and youth development strategy. Here at the Afterschool Alliance, we work to emphasize how afterschool and summer learning programs keep children safe while simultaneously getting them excited about learning. In this way, as the NLC report explains, afterschool serves as a city strategy for public safety.

One of the greatest challenges cities face is high juvenile crime rates, especially during afterschool hours. Most juvenile crimes occur between 3 and 6 p.m., after the last school bell rings and before parents come home from work. In fact, the brief says that incidents of youth violence are five times more likely to occur during the afterschool hours than at night or during school hours.

Afterschool as a city solution

High-quality afterschool programs are data-driven solutions for juvenile crime: programs keep youth safe and learning and provide a good return on investment. To incarcerate a single youth for one year, taxpayers pay about $112,555. Meanwhile, the average annual cost to serve one child in an afterschool program is only $4,000 to $5,000. Afterschool programs can provide a return from $3 to$13 for every $1 invested, by decreasing crime rates in the present and teaching students skills that can connect them to careers with higher incomes and higher tax payments in the future. Additionally, according to the brief, comprehensive afterschool programs with mentoring and group counselling can decrease violent crime arrests by 44 percent and vandalism and weapons crime by 36 percent among youth.

The brief highlights a number of examples of cities that have successfully employed afterschool as a city solution. One such example is the Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO) Network in Grand Rapids, Mich. The ELO Network consists of more than 60 organizations that provide quality afterschool programming. According to 2016 data, children who participated in ELO Network programs attended school at higher rates, making them more likely to graduate. In addition, ELO African-American children were 1.5 times as likely to meet or exceed expectations in math. Notably, 99 percent of ELO participants did not appear on Grand Rapids juvenile offense police reports, demonstrating the significant decrease in youth crime rates.

Police agree that afterschool is a strong solution

Afterschool practitioners are not the only ones who think afterschool is a strong solution. As we have seen in our past work on partnerships between law enforcement and afterschool programs, law enforcement officials agree that afterschool is quite effective. The brief reports that 69 percent of police chiefs agree that afterschool programs are the most effective strategies for reducing juvenile crime. Not only do afterschool programs keep young people safe, but they also help connect them with mentors and role models who will encourage positive life choices. We know from some of our earlier blog posts (like “Afterschool & Law Enforcement: Building community between police and youth”) that when police officers volunteer in afterschool programs and become mentors, youth feel more connected to the law enforcement community instead of resenting or fearing them.

One police chief and mentor, Keith Humphrey from Norman, Okla., is quoted in the brief urging federal lawmakers to continue funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program because “expanding …funding for afterschool programs is a smart choice for kids today and for public safety in the years to come.” With the support of law enforcement, especially when they collaborate with afterschool programs, afterschool is an even stronger city strategy for public safety.

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