FAIRFIELD — No one uttered the words “economic
development” or “economic vitality” at an Solano Economic Development
Corporation breakfast event Friday publicized about the connection between
having safe communities and both of those things.
What was discussed is how investing in
society’s youth – and investing early – helps to curb crime and many of the
other problems that drain economic resources, and helps develop the kind
of workforce businesses will need.
Barrie Becker, California director of the
Council for a Strong America and special projects director for Fight Crime:
Invest in Kids California, said that research shows when high school graduation
rates rise by 10 percent, murders and aggravated assaults go down by 20
In Solano County, that would mean five fewer
murders and 222 fewer assaults, Becker said.
Becker also noted that nine out of 10
juveniles who are in detention centers had been suspended or expelled from
school at some point, and that one-third of all dropouts leave school by the
In Solano County, the suspension and expulsion
rate is 7.3 percent of all students, according statistics provided by Becker.
The county’s dropout rate has gone down in recent years and is actually better
than the state average.
At the same time, research shows that 63
percent of future jobs in the United States will require some education
beyond high school. In other words, communities need to find a way not only to
keep students in high school, but beyond.
One way that is having success, and something
Solano County schools are implementing is to have work-connected academies at
the high schools. Participating students appear to be more engaged, the
research shows, and the skills employers need are being taught.
Becker said her organization lobbies for
resources as the state and federal levels by using evidence- and research-based
information to stop children from being victims. Some of the most effective
tools are preschool and after-school programs.
She also noted a statement from an educator
who had helped turn a troubled high school around by saying “it is better
to have a caring adult than a computer for every child.”
Becker’s presentation followed one by Jim
Bueermann, president of the Police Foundation, who within his examination about
the need to change how community policing is implemented, said the fundamental
truth connected to virtually all crime is family stability.
Vallejo police Chief Andrew Bidou and former
Fairfield chief Walt Tibbet are executive fellows with the organization.
If children are raised in a house with drug
and alcohol issues, it is more likely they will have drug and alcohol problems.
If they are raised in an abusive house, there is a greater likelihood they will
And where those problems exist, Bueermann
said, so does crime. He presented a series of overlays that show the
connection of law enforcement calls for social issues and where crimes are
committed or criminals are arrested.
Bueermann said youth development is critical
for stemming crime.
“This tells us where we have to put our
resources. We do not have to put them everywhere,” Bueermann said.
The former police chief of Redlands also noted
the need for police agencies to change how they relate to the public, and
change their policing tactics.
“There is a disconnect with how police
perceive themselves, and how the people they protect perceive them,” Bueermann
Technology will be a driving force in this
evolution, noting that body and other surveillance cameras are essential, and
that it will not be long before drones become a central part of policing
He said the use of virtual reality so officers
can get a personal sense of what it is like to be a person with a mental
illness, such schizophrenia, who then encounters an officer, is important.
It can even help officers understand how minorities view their encounters with
Bueermann, who is white, emphasized that he
will never know what it is like to be a young black man, but he can better
understand how that young man perceives the police.
“It allows you to become somebody else,” he
said. “It may change how you interact with people.”
Bueermann also noted the days of just
throwing people in jail are over, and that prevention and intervention are
essential elements. He said police officers must be better equipped to deal
with people with mental illness, the homeless and others for whom prison may
not be the best solution.
If nothing else, he said, escalating costs of
incarceration are going to force change.
Bueermann said to succeed, change must be
embraced, not fought. He included a quote about change by Nelson Mandela to
emphasize the point.
“It always seems impossible until it is done,”