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WASHINGTON (AP) - The best child care can keep children from getting into trouble and committing crimes later in life, says research presented at the White House by law enforcement groups today.
The report, a compilation of studies comparing children in programs in North Carolina and Chicago with other children, says youths who spent their early years in quality care were half as likely to be arrested.
Studies also found that troubled tots who didn't go to preschool and receive home visits from social workers were five times as likely to become chronic lawbreakers - arrested four or more times - by age 27.
``We're tired of hearing people pretend there are no answers to how we can prevent youth violence,'' said Sanford Newman, president of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids. The 700-member anti-crime group was promoting child care as a crime-fighting tool at a White House meeting today led by Hillary Rodham Clinton, the first lady and New York Senate candidate.
``Child care is not only a lifesaver for working families, it is a crime-fighting strategy for our communities,'' Clinton said today.
``For every dollar we invest in child care we save $5 in crime costs down the line.''
The group - representing a bipartisan coalition of police chiefs, sheriffs and crime victims - kept its focus on prevention in the report. It proposed increased spending, saying many poor families are forced to pay a quarter of their incomes for child care.
It also proposed better training and higher salaries for child-care workers - who they said make almost half as much as parking lot attendants on average.
Polls released along with the child studies found, not surprisingly, that parents and police alike overwhelmingly support child-care and after-school activities.
There is less agreement on whether children should be charged as adults, kept in prisons, or subjected to other increasingly punitive measures, organizers said. The polls found that 17 percent of police chiefs favor charging more juveniles as adults, compared with 12 percent of the public.
``Wherever you are on the spectrum, it's just common sense to expand early childhood programs,'' Newman said.
Newman said the group's presentation at the White House highlights its support for the Clinton administration's commitment to increasing funds for the Head Start preschool program and providing tax breaks for parents and employers that offer day care for workers' children.
The Education and Justice Departments are releasing today a guide to help schools identify and help troubled children.