Video | June 17, 2021

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids 25th Anniversary - Sandy Newman

Sandy Newman co-founded Fight Crime: Invest in Kids in 1996

Founder Sanford Newman’s commitment to cutting crime began after a terrifying event at his home. In the middle of the night, Newman and his wife were awakened by the presence of an intruder crouched between their bed and the crib where their daughter, Ashley, slept.

Newman jumped up and gave chase. The intruder ran out of the house. The moment of real terror occurred when he returned to the bedroom and saw an empty crib. Fortunately, Ashley was safe in her mother’s arms in another room.

Although police officers caught the intruder a few minutes later, Newman realized that if something had happened to Ashley, their action would have been too late to undo the damage. He asked himself: What might have prevented the intruder from showing up in the bedroom in the first place?

After reviewing the research over several years, it was apparent to Newman that what was needed was greater investment in the programs proven to help kids get the right start in life and prevent them from becoming criminals. It also became clear that the most effective voices to communicate the need for investment to policy-makers were the voices of law enforcement leaders and crime survivors.

Former U.S. Attorney General Elliott Richardson worked with Newman to develop a strategy for the organization and was influential in helping to obtain the first small foundation grants. He also helped to recruit members. Among the first to sign up and to recruit other members was Patrick Murphy, former New York, Detroit, Syracuse and Washington, DC, police commissioner.

At the time of the 1996 news conference announcing the new organization, fewer than 50 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors and violence survivors had signed on as members. Now, there are more than 5,000 members.

That growth was because of the hard work of our early members to get law enforcement leaders and crime survivors on board and their voices proved effective in getting policy-makers on both sides of the aisle to understand the importance of investments in evidence-based programs that steer kids away from crime and towards success.

Other early law enforcement members who gave the organization immediate credibility and remained active supporters included former Chicago Police Superintendent Matt Rodriquez; former New York police commissioner and now Los Angeles Chief William Bratton; former San Diego Chief Jerry Sanders; the former president of the Fraternal Order of Police and former Albuquerque Chief Gil Gallegos; former Arapahoe County, Colo., Sheriff Patrick Sullivan; former Denver District Attorney Norm Early; Multnomah County, Ore., District Attorney Michael D. Schrunk and Charlotte-Mecklenburg District Attorney Peter Gilchrist.

Gordon and Elaine Rondeau of Marietta, Ga., whose daughter Renee was murdered in Chicago, were the first violence survivor members and served for years as key recruiters and representatives to crime survivor organizations. Others survivors who signed up early and played critical roles in the organization’s development were rape victim Ellen Halbert, of Austin, Texas; Jean Lewis, of Sarasota, Fla., whose son Scott was murdered by drug dealers; Carole Grant Hall, whose son Lateef was shot to death on a Chicago playground; and Marc Klass, whose daughter, Polly, was abducted from their Petaluna, Cal., home and murdered in a notorious case.

Until his death, Richardson served on the Fight Crime: Invest in Kids board of directors. Gil Kerlikowske, then the chief of police in Buffalo who later became the chief of police in Seattle and Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, joined the board in 1997 and became chairman in 2001. Other past members of the board are Newman, Murphy, Halbert, Gallegos, former Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn, Sagadahoc County, Maine, Sheriff Mark Westrum, and Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo. Former Sumter Police Chief Patty Patterson and former San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos currently serve on the board of Council for a Strong America, which grew out of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.

Watch the interview.

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