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ational evaluation of weed and seed national institute of justice

In most sites, law enforcement approaches have been tailored to fit the strategy. They typically involved multiagency/multijurisdictional task forces, stronger street patrols, and higher level police/prosecutor interagency cooperation. The law enforcement efforts developed increased local, state, and federal coordination in targeting offenders, halting drug trafficking, and in prosecution or probation/parole.

Prosecution efforts were weaker than police efforts in W&S because of various institutional, political, and judicial concerns. ”In general, district attorneys operate with limited resources and in politicized environments that act as barriers to the provision of the additional resources needed for local prosecution of W&S cases” (Dunworth and Mills 1999). Local police and prosecution operate through different political systems: Police departments are funded in a fairly well-defined process through cities, whereas prosecutors are funded through a competitive political process at the county level. In addition, police chiefs are usually appointed by mayors, whereas prosecutors are usually elected. Thus, though police were able to make concentrated arrests in the W&S areas, enhanced prosecution was often difficult to generate.

Weed and Seed (W&S) was started in 1991 within the Executive Office of the President (EOP) as a discretionary federal grant program that provided funds for crime control and community revitalization to particularly troubled neighborhoods. U.S. attorney’s offices (USAOs) were invited to partner with local agencies on funding requests. The USAO was given the responsibility of setting up a steering committee and formulating a local strategy. After federal review and approval, federal support flowed through the USAO to the local agencies and organizations that would implement the strategy.

Factors for Success

Funds from CCDO depend on compliance with W&S Office of Justice Programs requirements. A site will only receive one award per fiscal year except when special emphasis funding is offered, usually on a competitive basis. Other outstanding OJP activities will be considered, as well as past awards and performance under them. Because federal W&S grants are not meant to completely fund all desired programs in a W&S site, the site will have to demonstrate the ability to obtain both financial and nonfinancial resources from other public and private sources. The site is expected to become self-sustaining during its W&S life, and a plan for accomplishing this goal must either be in the strategy or be developed shortly thereafter.

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A national evaluation of W&S was completed in 1999 (Dunworth and Mills 1999). Results of W&S programs varied: from wide reductions in Part I crimes (serious violent and drug-related offenses) and increased perceptions of public safety and police confidence, to small or no noticeable reductions in Part I crimes. Sites that concentrated federal resources on small geographic areas and leveraged additional funds in these areas experienced the most success in reducing crime.

The future of Weed and Seed is uncertain. The program has low funding levels (around $60 million nationally per year), so it is not a very significant federal budget item. Therefore, it does not offer much savings potential during the annual appropriations process. However, for that very reason it would be a simple matter for it to be eliminated.

“Multi-agency task forces concentrated on the target area, although they pursued drug cases across jurisdictional lines” (Dunworth and Mills 1999). Increased police presence was funded through additional staffing and overtime, and a majority of sites assigned dedicated officers to the target area. These approaches helped build relationships with residents and aided enforcement through better local knowledge and intelligence, an increased ability to operate proactively, and enhanced communication between residents and police. ”Weed and Seed provided a vehicle for mobilizing residents to participate in crime prevention. Responses ranged from increasing neighborhood watches, to community meetings, to a citizens’ advisory committee that provided guidance on law enforcement priorities” (Dunworth and Mills 1999). Violent and drug-related crimes were especially targeted by these efforts.

Dunworth, Terrance and Gregory Mills, Gary Cordner and Jack Greene. 1999. National evaluation of weed and seed: cross-site analysis. Washington,D.C.:U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.

Bynum, Timothy, Gregory Mills and Kristen Jacoby. 1999. National evaluation of weed and seed: Pittsburgh case study. Washington,D.C.:U.S. Department of Justice, National InstituteofJustice.

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Dunworth and others (1999) and Miller (2001) document local level resistance to Weed and Seed implementation. Miller’s documentation of a Seattle Weed and Seed site illustrates the ways in which strategy implementation and design activated effective community opposition and control. Not only was this neighborhood successful in initially staving off program implementation, but when they eventually “accepted” the initiative – they were able to lead campaigns that increased seed funding and granted more community control over funding streams.

Abstract
Weed and Seed, a federal initiative that started in the 1990s, seeks to improve economic and social conditions for residents in poor urban neighborhoods by removing criminals (weeding), and implementing programs designed and administered by conglomerates of state, local, and community level actors (seeding). This paper, however, seeks to outline the necessary questions about the program’s as yet unmeasured socio-economic outcomes. It argues first that the potential impact on targeted neighborhoods goes largely unaddressed in the strategy’s design, and ultimately threatens to undermine substantive neighborhood improvement. It further argues that while the project’s flaws may be cast as the perpetual imperfection of social policy and implementation design, they are instead products of the political-economic context in which they are embedded. In other words, it argues that Weed and Seed is a product of the neo-liberal state and reflects policy decisions that privilege capitalist development, re-enforce small-scale social spending, and the mass incarceration of the US prison system.

In other words, the mass incarceration and harsh sentencing that Miller (2001) refers to may well be the result of the recent dramatic increase in the state’s criminal storage capacity. Gilmore argues that the demand needed to both justify and meet the rise in supply of “cages,” was achieved by a politically and economically crafted “crime” crisis. Fueled by the militant civil rights movement that threatened race and class hierarchies, Nixon’s “law and order” campaign recast radical activism as crime that needed to be controlled (Gilmore 1999). After a decade of moral panic, the harsher sentencing and massive prison construction that started in California in 1982 seemed justified to the American public, regardless of the fact that crime rates had been steadily declining since 1980 (Gilmore 1999).

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At the federal level, the Weed and Seed strategy is intentionally vague, thereby delegating most design, implementation, and funding mechanisms for initiatives to local and community leaders (OJP 2009). The logic of the Weed and Seed model largely frames criminals and uncoordinated service provision as the primary obstacles for socio-economic growth in blighted urban neighborhoods. In other words, “weeding” criminals out of neighborhoods, and “seeding” in local service programs marks a departure from the Keynesian model of welfare that proliferated in the 1960’s and 70’s, a model that framed federally funded cash and in-kind public assistance programs as America’s preferred anti-poverty edifice. This divergence is most pronounced in the Weed and Seed strategy’s reliance on theU.S.prison system as an institution instrumental to keeping criminals out of targeted neighborhoods. Further, politicians aligned the strategy to neo-liberal ideals that position capitalist development as a viable strategy for improving conditions in poor neighborhoods, providing legitimacy for small-scale social spending and mass incarceration.

Western and Beckett (1999) identify a key paradox in the short and long-term labor market effects of theUSprison system. Prisoners are excluded from unemployment figures in theUnited States, deflating the unemployment rate and creating the illusion of a stronger economy in the short-run. But because incarceration reduces job prospects for ex-offenders, they argue that consequences of a rapidly expanding penal system are sustained long-term unemployment and deepening social inequality: “Incarceration . . . deepens inequality because its effects are increasingly detrimental for young black and unskilled men, whose incarceration rates are highest and whose market power is weak” (1031). This unemployment contradiction marks the potential long-term negative impact on recidivism in targeted neighborhoods.