Why Crime Prevention Starts at Birth
Former Milwaukee Police Chief reflects on the importance of the earliest years
I recently retired as Milwaukee’s Chief of Police after serving the city for the last decade. I have to admit - it’s been strange to hang up the uniform I wore for almost 47 years. Even though I’ll no longer carry the badge, crime prevention is a mission I’ll carry for the rest of my life.
Crime prevention is not one single initiative a department can deploy overnight. It is a vision; a systematic approach to building strong, safe communities; a priority that demands action from our elected leaders. Most importantly, it is a strategy that needs to start really early.
Thinking this early makes sense. The human brain is developing more rapidly in its first three years than at any other period in life. Research confirms that the experiences in the first three years has long-lasting impacts on a child’s development and success. If children are in a safe environment where caring adults engage them and nurture their growth, they are more likely to be set on a path toward better learning and healthy development.
If the opposite happens, children can not only become victims of crimes, they can also put on a path toward future criminal activity themselves l. Programs like voluntary home visiting and high-quality child care are the kind of proven, essential family supports that can shift gears for kids at their earliest years.
For law enforcement to achieve true crime prevention, it will require a spectrum of tools and collaboration across our communities. Let’s start by focusing on the youngest among us.