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Syracuse police chief makes push for more after school programs

Matthias Ripp

Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler is helping an organization that’s advocating for more after school programs.

The highest profile member of the Afterschool Alliance is former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

“After school programs are between three and six o’clock, which is the danger zone for our kids,” Schwarzenegger said.

Schwarzenegger led the way for California to have the most after school programs of any state in the nation. He says it’s not just for academics and fitness, but to create safety for kids who often find themselves home alone after school.

Fowler says he’s seen the effect a lack of after school programs can have, from his days as a narcotics detective who would go into houses where kids were unsupervised.

“Now I see these very same young people that were inside these households, and they’re the ones we are arresting now,” Fowler said. “They’re the ones who are dealing drugs now. These children were doomed from the start, because they didn’t have a strong support system behind them.”

The police chief says he has also seen what good after school programs can do for children who have the opportunity to go.

“I attend every high school graduation in the city of Syracuse,” Fowler explained. “And the kids that come across the stage, and the hands that I shake, are those involved in after school programs, in athletic programs, not the ones I remember from my days in narcotics.”

The latest survey from the Afterschool Alliance shows that low-income and African-American and Hispanic children need these programs the most.  Fowler and others say governments need to come up with more support for these programs.

In New York state, 21 percent of children are in after school programs, slightly higher than the national average.

But Fowler says that is not enough.

“We need more programs, quality after school programs to serve more children in our community,” Fowler said. “And as I often put it, we can pay now, or we can pay later.”

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.