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.
When President Bush introduced the Weed and Seed Act of 1992, Congress was not receptive to the bill. It wasn’t until later in the year, after the Los Angeles riots had gained significant media attention, that funding was appropriated for Weed and Seed under the Tax Fairness and Economic Growth Act of 1992 (Ruben 1994). This provides support for the notion that crises energize reform efforts, and as Gilmore argues, particularly those that reinforce standing social orders. The result was a combination of mass incarceration, harsh sentencing, and a limit on rehabilitative programs and services.
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.
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.
The origins of Operation Weed and Seed suggest that it emerged as a solution to the problems of developing surplus urban space. Target neighborhoods for Weed and Seed implementation were selected based on indicators of underdevelopment and economic promise (Miller 2001). For example, the Crawford-Roberts neighborhood occupied a central location in the Hill District in Pittsburghthat had once been a populous African American urban center for commerce and cultural activity. As a result of fleeting industrial production from the city, the Hill District had seen a 70% drop in population by the 1990s and was home to neighborhoods with the highest violent and drug crime-rates in the city (Bynum et al.1999). The combination of tax incentives, aggressive law enforcement, and growing community involvement through small-scale neighborhood investments were to stimulate economic development and improve conditions in neighborhoods like Crawford-Roberts.
However, every Weed and Seed site has three core components: weeding, seeding, and community policing. The first element, weeding, aims to remove criminals from the neighborhood through targeted operations and elevated police presence. Commonly utilized tactics include identifying and securing locations of high-crime activity, aggressive use of search and arrest warrants, undercover “buy busts,” and extended police coverage with an emphasis on field interrogations (Miller 2001). The second component, seeding, uses new resources from the program to leverage pre-existing community resources and actors in the planning and implementation of self-selected initiatives. While seeding initiatives vary based on locally defined priorities, all sites are required to have a “safe haven,” a multi-service center or space that hosts a variety of different programs and activities. Popular seeding efforts include youth prevention and intervention programs, adult employment programs, family support services, community building and neighborhood beautification initiatives (Dunworth et. al. 1999). The third component is community policing, in which the police and community proactively collaborate to address and respond to pressing problems.