CARIBOU, Maine — A local lawmaker and pair of crimefighters took time to socialize this week with youngsters at the Caribou Head Start Center.
Caribou Police Chief Michael Gahagan and Aroostook County Sheriff Darrell Crandall are part of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, an anti-crime organization that exposes young children to law enforcement. They believe their early influence will encourage good behavior and help prevent future criminal activity.
“The more we focus on making sure kids get a good start, the less likely we’re going to have as much interaction later on. Anything we can do to support children in their formative years, I’m going to be on board with that,” Crandall said during Monday’s gathering.
Gahagan said he wants children to see the side of law enforcement they won’t see in movies or on television. Interacting with kids goes a long way in helping to build trust, he said.
“We see many results. We know that if we invest in Head Start, we in law enforcement don’t have to pay it out later,” Gahagan said.
Joined by Rep. Carol McElwee, R-Caribou, Gahagan and Crandall sat down with children and read “Officer Buckle and Gloria,” a book about safety tips. They took turns reading from the book and interacted with their audience of Head Start children and preschoolers.
McElwee, a Caribou educator for 27 years, said early education is crucial to a child’s development.
“The earlier, the better. They learn discipline. They learn camaraderie. Young people learn from each other and it’s fun for them. That socialization is a key part to learning. And we have that right here in this program and it’s wonderful,” McElwee said.
The state cut funding for Head Start centers in 2013, but McElwee hopes to restore $2 million in funding with legislation she has in the works.
“I’m in the process now of getting sponsors for my bill. And pretty soon I’ll be presenting it and I hope I can be persuasive. It will be necessary to show what this money can do, how it’s going to help,” McElwee said.
She admitted that money is scarce right now, but she hoped other lawmakers would realize how important Head Start centers are to a child’s future.