YONKERS, N.Y. – In 2011, New York state spent less than $50 million for voluntary home-visiting service programs to help prevent child abuse and neglect, according to the awareness group Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.
On Wednesday, law enforcement leaders of Westchester County gathered at city hall in Yonkers with the goal of reducing child abuse in order to prevent future crimes by calling for the increase of state and federal aid in these home visiting services.
Mount Pleasant Police Chief Louis Alagno, president of the Westchester County Chiefs Association, said that thousands of child abuse cases occur in Westchester County every year. The money the state allocates is only enough to 10 percent of the children who are in need of services, the group said.
“Over 2,300 child abuse cases occur in Westchester County every year, and these reported cases reflect only a fraction of the actual number because we know there are a number of unreported cases,” Alagno said. “It’s a significant driver of criminal rates.”
Alagno was joined by Scarsdale Police Chief John Brogan, New York State Sheriffs Association President Donald Smith and Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano as well as members of the Yonkers City Council as they supported Fight Crime: Invest in Kids. The enforcement leaders said that many of today’s crimes can be traced to a criminal’s childhood at home and that preventative measures such as home visits can lessen the problem. Westchester County law enforcement released a report Wednesday that said that in 2010, 77,000 children in New York state suffered abuse or neglect, enough to fill Madison Square Garden over three times. The study also shows that over 3,000 of these children will one day become violent criminals.
Smith said that he’s witnessed cyclical crimes far too often during his time as sheriff of Putnam County.
“I can’t tell you how many times in our prison do we have a father in one part of the jail, and his son in another part.” Smith said. “It’s cyclical that the same families end up in jail year after year.”
Brogan said that providing professional help to people at an early stage in parenthood can prevent child abuse and future crime.
“Home visitation programs use a trained professional to provide information and support during pregnancy and throughout the child’s first year of life,” Brogan said. “This can make sure that fewer children are injured and that fewer children grow up to injure others.”
Fight Crime: Invest in Kids reports that home visitation programs can cut child abuse and neglect by 50 percent and can save the state around $21,000 in medical, social service and crime-related costs for each family served.