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federal weed and seed

National Weed and Seed Program — U.S. Department of Justice, Executive Office for Weed and Seed

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Weed and Seed program was developed to demonstrate an innovative and comprehensive approach to law enforcement and community revitalization, and to prevent and control violent crime, drug abuse, and gang activity in target areas. The program, initiated in 1991, attempts to weed out violent crime, gang activity, and drug use and trafficking in target areas, and then seed the target area by restoring the neighborhood through social and economic revitalization. Weed and Seed has three objectives: (1) develop a comprehensive, multiagency strategy to control and prevent violent crime, drug trafficking, and drug-related crime in target neighborhoods; (2) coordinate and integrate existing and new initiatives to concentrate resources and maximize their impact on reducing and preventing violent crime, drug trafficking, and gang activity; and (3) mobilize community residents in the target areas to assist law enforcement in identifying and removing violent offenders and drug traffickers from the community and to assist other human service agencies in identifying and responding to service needs of the target area. To achieve these goals, Weed and Seed integrates law enforcement, community policing, prevention, intervention, treatment, and neighborhood restoration efforts. The Weed and Seed program is being implemented in more than 150 communities across the country.

The Executive Office for Weed and Seed (EOWS) within the Office of Justice Programs is responsible for overall program policy, coordination, and development. EOWS also serves to enhance the law enforcement and prosecution coordination among Federal, State, and local agencies, and coordinates with other cooperating programs and agencies such as Ameri-Corps, Empowerment Zones/Enterprise Communities, and the Comprehensive Communities Program.

“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.

A Weed and Seed Steering Committee identifies target neighborhoods and then seeks to establish local partnerships that will implement a specific strategy to reduce violence, drug trafficking, and crime, and provide a safe environment for residents.

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.

Weeding

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.

The first stage of W&S typically requires geographically targeted law enforcement by police and prosecutors (weeding). This is followed by enhanced social services and neighborhood improvements (seeding). Consequently, interagency cooperation and collaboration are required elements of most weed and seed strategies. Examples of such efforts include federal/local task forces involving the FBI, DEA, and some combination of city, county, and state police. Federal and local prosecutors also play a key role in identifying the optimal prosecution strategy when task force activities result in arrests. On the seeding side, increased communication and task sharing between social service agencies and community-based private sector organizations offer the potential for significant enhancement in the scope and quality of social service delivery. The usual pattern is to enhance a core of social services and organizations that are already collaborating.

Before receiving funding, a community must attain official recognition as a W&S site from CCDO. To do this, the site must put together a steering committee and a strategic plan. Once official recognition is attained, the site may apply for funding from CCDO. Official recognition and funding are both temporary, with a five-year limit. A site that continues to implement its strategic plan and maintain its partnerships is considered to have graduated from W&S. Regardless, five years after official recognition, the site may not apply for W&S funding or official recognition status again.

The number of funded sites has grown steadily, from twenty-one immediately after the demonstration to more than three hundred in 2005. Site funding levels have declined as a consequence of this growth because congressional appropriations have not changed in proportion to the increase in sites. In the early 1990s, roughly 36 sites were funded at $750,000 per year for four or five years. By 1997, about 120 sites were funded at $250,000 per year. In 2005, few sites got more than $150,000 annually, though funding is the same for all sites. Current sites range in size from a few blocks to several miles in area, with populations between three thousand and fifty thousand. While typically within a city, some sites are county based.