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Editorial: New United Way program might nip crime in the bud

The path toward a life of crime often starts with youngsters whose families are being torn apart by addiction, violence and parental incarceration, according to District Attorney Raúl Torrez. So he’s working with United Way of Central New Mexico as it launches a new initiative to coordinate and increase funding for programs that target such families in hopes of nipping crime in its infancy.

The initiative, called Mission: Families, will be funded in part with United Way’s “unrestricted funds” – those received from donors who do not specify which United Way-affiliated nonprofit they want to receive their donation. Last year, that amounted to nearly $4 million. United Way also will explore grants to help fund the effort.

Over the next three years Mission: Families will focus on projects that “increase secure and stable homes for children, improve children’s safety and well-being, and support working families,” according to United Way.

Torrez, whose prosecutors deal with the end results of crime, envisions a system in which a family with a number of emergency call outs – such as domestic violence, neglect, abuse or drug overdose – would trigger early intervention and the offer of coordinated services to break that cycle.

Kyle Beasley, a member of the Mission: Families leadership team, says funding programs that focus on family stability can “move the needle” on fundamental problems facing children and, hopefully, start having a positive impact on metro Albuquerque’s rising crime rate. “You want to see impact with your donor dollars,” he says. We agree.

Data-based programs that can offer measurable results will be key in determining which programs receive funding, and Torrez says an indicator of success would be a reduction in youthful offenders entering the criminal justice system. “If we can do that, I think what you are going to see is a pretty significant decline in the types of crime you are seeing.”

Mission: Families, fashioned after Mission: Graduate, a five-year-old United Way initiative boosting the number of area students earning diplomas and degrees, also has the markings of a successful community project. Both deserve support.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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