(WMBD) — In a new report released Wednesday, law enforcement leaders called for policymakers to strengthen early childhood opportunities.

Their report, Rural Illinois & Early Childhood Challenges, focused on showing how birth-to-5 services could address numerous problems for Illinois families while simultaneously aiding in curbing crime.

The nonprofit organization, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, Council for a Strong America, hosted an online webinar Wednesday morning. It gave some of the 300 Illinois law enforcement leaders in Fight Crime: Invest in Kids a chance to advocate for their stance.

Lee County Sheriff John Simonton addressed the large drug problem in Illinois.

“We thought we could arrest our way out of this problem,” he said.

He linked early childhood intervention to reducing crime, including drug use. He said Illinois lacks sufficient child resources.

Jerel Jones, the Macomb Police chief, addressed the educational and behavioral deficits many schools are seeing in the wake of COVID-19. He said young children are getting into fights and drug use at higher rates.

Jones also said half of the children in low-income environments get early education services. Most low-income Illinois families live in rural areas.

“We have to continually reach our youth,” he said, “because their voices need to be heard.”

He, along with others in the webinar, claimed crime has risen in Illinois, namely rural Illinois. Jones reported 20,000 service calls last year, which for Macomb, he said, is very high.