I was pleased to read in The Times Record Monday that Gov. Janet Mills’ administration is focusing on early childhood education as a policy priority. Specifically, offering pre-K classes to students statewide so all Maine kids, regardless of their zip code, have access to quality early learning will help put Maine youth on track to great futures – including futures that do not include crime. 

As a member of law enforcement, I know that quality early education programs are a powerful crime prevention tool. Kids, especially those who are at-risk, who participate in high-quality pre-K programs are more likely to get a solid learning foundation and develop skills that help them do well when they begin formal schooling, continue to do well in all grades of school, and graduate from high school. They are less likely to enter into a life of crime. 

Research proves early education programs prevent crime. In a 40-year study of children who attended a Michigan pre-school, findings indicated that at-risk youth who did not participate in the program were five times more likely to be chronic criminal offenders by age 27 than kids who did participate. On the other hand, kids who did participate in the program were half as likely to have been sentenced to prison or jail by age 40. 

A separate study of Chicago’s Child-Parent Centers found that at-risk kids left out of the program were 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime by age 18 than kids who participated.  

Research also shows that investments in quality early learning programs like pre-K can substantially save in corrections and other law enforcement costs over time.  

I applaud Gov. Mills for making early learning programs like pre-K a priority. High quality early education programs are excellent investments that give our kids, at the youngest stages of development, a better shot at becoming contributing members of society, they help keep our communities safer, and they save money down the road. First and foremost, they are the right thing to do for Maine children. 

Mike Field, 

Bath Chief of Police