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weed and seed community policing

Within the Northern District of California there have been a number of designated Weed and Seed sites over the past 15 years. In the past several years there have been the following designations: Salinas, East Oakland, San Francisco and two in San Jose. West Oakland has been a graduated site for several years. Each of the sites has unique characteristics which create special challenges. At each site, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has played an important role in working with the steering committee and in bringing together the participants on both the “weeding” and “seeding” sides of the program. Most of the programs have run their individual five year program funding cycles, but continue to meet and work on Weed and Seed issues in the community.

As part of the upcoming fiscal year budget, the Weed & Seed program had ended. Funding for new Weed & Seed sites will no longer be available. However, these types of programs may still be available through the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program (BCJI). This initiative was not funded in the FY 2011 final continuing resolution. However, BCJI was included in the President’s proposed FY2012 budget and is pending before Congress. For questions about this source of grant funding please consult the Weed & Seed website FAQ section.

Weed and Seed is a Department of Justice community-based program whose goal is to prevent, control and reduce violent crime, drug abuse, and gang activity in targeted high-crime neighborhoods throughout the country. Weed and Seed strategy follows a two-pronged approach: local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors cooperate in “weeding” out criminals who engage in violent crimes and drug abuse, and “seeding” brings to the area human services encompassing prevention, intervention, treatment, and neighborhood revitalization. A community-oriented policing component bridges weeding and seeding strategies: officers obtain cooperation and information from area residents while they assist residents in obtaining information about community revitalization and resources.

A variety of funding opportunities for law enforcement and other programs are listed on the Office of Justice Programs website.

Such an orientation to crime, as Miller (2001) describes it, provides little in the way of programming to meet broader social goals, and decentralizes state responsibility for the contexts in which crime is embedded. In short, this penology justifies purging social programs in favor of reactive measures that aim to separate criminals from law-abiding citizens, and often diffuse remedial responsibilities to local contingents. The abandonment of rehabilitative services for criminals, the intensified commitment to removing criminals from neighborhoods, and the (minimal) support provided to citizens in the community correspond to the model she describes. Lastly, the delegation of crime control responsibility to local organizations is a primary characteristic of both this penology and the Weed and Seed approach as state and elected officials are insulated from assuming accountability for crime rates.

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.

Urban revitalization initiatives, of which Empowerment Zones are an example, are a product of theNew Yorkfiscal crisis recovery that were subsequently reproduced throughout theUnited States. As an appendage to urban revitalization efforts, the Weed and Seed works to facilitate urban economic development by reducing crime and increasing community engagement, all while constricting – by increasing arrests and incarceration – the already limited opportunities for capital accumulation for residents of those targeted neighborhoods. Gilmore (1999) argues that high rates of incarceration create a pool of low-cost labor. Since living wages for low-skilled work are an obstacle for competition in the global economy, prison labor functions as a mechanism to reduce the cost of production and post-incarceration, ex-prisoners feed the increasingly “flexible” workforce that characterizes the neo-liberal labor market.

The Weed and Seed strategy is a prime example of the way in which the post-Keynesian penology is able to reproduce the crisis of crime, and thereby create a steady supply of prisoners. Weeding in targeted neighborhoods results in more arrests, and consequently in more incarcerated community members. During incarceration, these community members are unable to participate in the labor market, maintain personal and professional connections, or contribute to the economic and social wellbeing of family members (Solomon, Fischer, Le Vigne and Osborn 2006). Upon release, the majority of reentering prisoners stay with their families, returning many to the neighborhood in which they lived prior to incarceration with relatively little to offer (Visher and Farrell, 2005). Meager job prospects, untreated mental and physical health conditions, few public benefits, and sometimes major debt accumulations (one study found that a quarter of prisoner respondents owed an average of $25,000.00 in child support) make reentering prisoners difficult community members to re-integrate successfully (Solomon, Fischer, Le Vine and Osborn and 2006). In effect, the weeding component ends up concentrating disadvantage by maintaining the socio-economic conditions correlated with crime.

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.

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.