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.
National Weed and Seed Program — U.S. Department of Justice, Executive Office for Weed and Seed
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.
The seeding process is much more political, problematic, and complicated than the weeding effort, and it is more difficult for most sites to implement. Engaging, coordinating, and mobilizing multiple public- and private-sector agencies that are not familiar with one another was daunting for many sites. Planning, relationship building, and gaining consensus and commitment from potential program participants generally took much more time and effort than weeding.
The most effective implementation strategies were those that relied on bottom-up, participatory decision-making approaches, especially when combined with efforts to build capacity and partnership among local organizations. This required a long-term perspective about the program and its potential to bring about community change. Such sites, including some that achieved substantial crime reductions within the time period analyzed, have established a stronger foundation and more sustainable basis for further community-targeted initiatives.
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.
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.
Typical seeding efforts fell into the following categories, in rough order of frequency: youth prevention and intervention programs, neighborhood restoration, community building and development, adult job training and employment programs, family support services, and community economic development activities.
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.
The majority of sites expanded or strengthened community policing efforts by dedicating officers to specific geographic areas. Though community residents would often protest weeding activities, fearing targeted harassment or discrimination by police, the community policing focus helped to improve relationships between communities and police, and led to increased public confidence in police in a number of locations. The result was a greater potential for making police-community partnerships sustainable after W&S funding was phased out. Little follow-on research has been done to see if this was in fact the result.