|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE||EOWS||THURSDAY, JULY 15, 1999||202/307-0703|
JUSTICE PROGRAM SHOWS SUCCESS IN CRIME-RIDDEN AREAS
Evaluation Of Weed & Seed Initiative Carried Out In 8 Sites Across Nation
WASHINGTON, DC - A government initiative to help neighborhoods prevent and control crime and rehabilitate them has proven successful, according to a just-released evaluation of the Justice Department's national Weed and Seed strategy.
The survey, commissioned by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), was released today. Abt Associates, a government and business consulting and research firm, was selected on the basis of a competition by NIJ to evaluate Weed and Seed sites.
The survey found that the overall Weed and Seed strategy has been a strong stimulant to community coalition building. Public and private organizations came together to develop programs, such as joint police-resident neighborhood watch initiatives and employment training. The evaluation, conducted for the Department's Office of Justice Programs (OJP) Executive Office for Weed and Seed (EOWS), concludes these developments would not have occurred without the Weed and Seed strategy.
"We have seen dramatic results in many of the communities that have become Weed and Seed sites," said Assistant Attorney General for OJP, Laurie Robinson. "These results translate into more than statistics. They translate into viable communities in which citizens can again have a positive quality of life."
Operation Weed and Seed, which began with three sites in 1991, has more than 200 communities participating today. The program is a multi-agency strategy, including partners from law enforcement, health, education and social services, that "weeds out" violent crime, gang activity, drug use, and drug trafficking in targeted neighborhoods and then "seeds" the designated area by restoring these neighborhoods through social and economic revitalization.
"This evaluation shows that the Weed and Seed strategy is an effective way to develop safer communities," said Stephen Rickman, Director of EOWS. "Simply put, people working together works."
The Weed and Seed strategy recognizes the importance of linking and integrating federal, state and local law enforcement and criminal justice efforts and private sector and community efforts from all three levels of government. It also recognizes that community involvement is essential and community residents must be empowered to assist in solving problems in their neighborhoods.
The evaluation included sites in Akron, OH; Hartford, CT; Las Vegas, NV; Manatee and Sarasota Counties, FL; Pittsburgh, PA; Salt Lake City, UT; Seattle, WA; and Shreveport, LA . The effectiveness of program activities was found to vary across the eight sites. Some cities have more than one Weed and Seed site.
The independent evaluation found that the most successful programs had the active and constructive leadership of key individuals. Also, the most effective implementation strategies relied on bottom-up participation in decision-making, especially when combined with efforts to build partnerships among local organizations.
Crime patterns varied widely across the evaluation sites. Available data allowed a comparison of the number of the most serious crimes (homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and auto theft) in the year prior to program implementation to the second year of Weed and Seed. Six sites showed declines: Stowe Village in Hartford, 46 percent; Crawford-Roberts in Pittsburgh, 24 percent; North Manatee, 18 percent; the Shreveport site, 11 percent; the Central District in Seattle, 10 percent; and West Las Vegas, 6 percent.
Two designated sites experienced increases in serious crime: Meadows Village in Las Vegas, 9 percent; and Salt Lake City, 14 percent. The evaluation indicates that an influx of gang activity in the Salt Lake City area was a factor in the increase, and questions whether the rate would have been even higher without the implementation of Weed and Seed. Serious crime in the Salt Lake City site and the South Manatee sub-site decreased in1997, the latest reporting period. A section of the Manatee and Sarasota site, South Manatee, showed a crime increase of 2 percent.
An estimate was not possible for the Akron target area due to insufficient data. During this same time period, serious crime rates in the Weed and Seed sites in Hartford, Pittsburgh, Shreveport and West Las Vegas declined more than in the rest of the respective city or county. The evaluation also found that changes in the drug arrest rates appeared to follow the same general pattern in the sites as the changes in the serious crime rate.
Copies of the National Weed and Seed Evaluation can be obtained by calling the National Criminal Justice Response Service at 800/851-3420. For further information on this report, contact the OJP Office of Congressional and Public Affairs at 202/307-0703 or the OJP home page at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov. To learn more about the other Weed and Seed programs and conferences, visit the EOWS Web site at www.ojp.usdoj.gov/eows.
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