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National Institute of Justice: National Evaluation of Weed and Seed

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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Justice Programs
National Institute of Justice
R e s e a r c h i n B r i e f
National Institute of Justice
Jeremy Travis, Director
June 1999
Issues and Findings
Discussed in this Brief: The
National Evaluation of Operation
Weed and Seed, a strategy to con-
trol violent crime, drug trafficking,
and drug-related crime in targeted
areas and to provide a safe environ-
ment for residents to live, work, and
raise their families. From the initial
three grant sites in 1991, Weed and
Seed has grown to include 200 sites
nationwide. The Weed and Seed
programs in eight sites—Hartford,
Connecticut; Manatee and Sarasota
Counties, Florida; Shreveport,
Louisiana; Las Vegas, Nevada; Ak-
ron, Ohio; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania;
Salt Lake City, Utah; and Seattle,
Washington—were selected for the
national evaluation of their imple-
mentation and measurable effects
on crime and public safety.
Key issues: Weed and Seed strate-
gically links concentrated and en-
hanced law enforcement efforts to
identify, arrest, and prosecute vio-
lent offenders, drug traffickers, and
other criminals operating in the
target areas (weeding) and commu-
nity policing with human services—
including afterschool, weekend,
and summer youth activities;
adult literacy classes; and parental
counseling—and neighborhood
revitalization efforts to prevent and
deter further crime (seeding). The
eight evaluation sites were selected
because they provide examples
of different aspects of Weed and
Seed in application. In each site,
the evaluation focused on one or
two Weed and Seed target areas.
Although each site had its own
distinctive crime problems, they all
shared high rates of violent crime
related to drug trafficking and drug
use. Most sites had serious gang-
related crime problems.
National Evaluation of
Weed and Seed
by Terence Dunworth and Gregory Mills
Operation Weed and Seed represents an
ambitious Federal, State, and local effort
to improve the quality of life in targeted
high crime areas of America’s cities. First
launched by the U.S. Department of Jus-
tice (DOJ) in 1991, the program attempts
to control violent crime, drug trafficking,
and drug-related crime and to provide a
safe environment for residents to live,
work, and raise their families.
These are, by themselves, conventional
law enforcement goals. What makes the
Weed and Seed concept distinctive and
innovative is the means by which these
goals are achieved: Community-focused
human services programs and neighbor-
hood improvement initiatives are
strategically linked with intensified,
geographically targeted law enforcement
efforts by police and prosecutors. Weed
and Seed is essentially a coordination
strategy; funding is only one tool among
many to achieve the program’s objectives.
(See “What is Weed and Seed?”)
Weed and Seed is administered by the
Executive Office for Weed and Seed
within DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs.
As exhibit 1 shows, from the initial three
grant sites—Kansas City, Missouri; Tren-
ton, New Jersey; and Omaha, Nebraska—
in 1991, Weed and Seed has grown to
include 200 sites nationwide. Until
recently, cities were funded either as
demonstration sites, which generally re-
ceived between $500,000 and $750,000
annually over 4 consecutive years, or offi-
cially recognized sites, which received
much smaller amounts ($35,000 in some
cases). Most sites currently (1999) re-
ceive about $225,000 annually.
The Weed and Seed programs in eight
sites were selected for the national evalu-
ation of their implementation and mea-
surable outcomes related to crime and
public safety: Hartford, Connecticut;
Manatee and Sarasota Counties, Florida;
Shreveport, Louisiana; Las Vegas,
Nevada; Akron, Ohio; Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania; Salt Lake City, Utah; and
Seattle, Washington. These sites were
selected by DOJ as examples of different
aspects of Weed and Seed. In each of
them, the evaluation focused on one or
two Weed and Seed target areas. (See ex-
hibit 2.) Although each site had its own
distinctive crime problems, they all
shared high rates of violent crime related
to drug trafficking and drug use. Most
sites had serious gang-related crime
The effectiveness of weeding and seeding
activities varied across the eight sites.
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R e s e a r c h i n B r i e f
Issues and Findings
Key findings: The effectiveness of
weeding and seeding activities
varied across the eight sites. The
evaluation found:
Preexisting community features
may make Weed and Seed easier
or more difficult to operate effec-
tively. Important factors included
the strength of the social and
institutional infrastructure (an
established network of community-
based organizations and commu-
nity leaders), the severity of crime
problems, geographical advantages
favoring economic development,
and transiency of the community
The mix of weeding and seeding
activities and the sequencing of
these components appear to be
important factors in gaining com-
munity support for the program.
Important positive factors included
early seeding, sustained weeding,
high-level task forces combined
with community policing, and an
active prosecutorial role.
Sites appeared to have greater
success if they concentrated their
program resources on smaller
population groups, especially if
they could similarly channel other
public funds and also leverage
private funds.
A less tangible ingredient that
seemed to characterize the more
successful programs was the active
and constructive leadership of key
The most effective implementa-
tion strategies were those that
relied on bottom-up, participatory
decisionmaking approaches, espe-
cially when combined with efforts
to build capacity and partnership
among local organizations.
The full cross site analysis and
the eight case studies are also
Target audience: Congressional
representatives and legislative staff;
Federal, State, and local law en-
forcement officials; State and
local government officials; and
criminal justice practitioners and
The evaluation found significant favorable
effects of Weed and Seed on key outcome
measures for some sites and time periods.
The evidence is modest in terms of its
statistical significance, but the indicators
consistently point in favorable directions.
At the same time, the evaluation has
pointed out a number of weak links in the
chain, most noticeably the limited and
tenuous role that many local prosecutors
played in the weeding process. A number
of local prosecutors reported they simply
lack the funding and personnel to conduct
enhanced prosecution of the target area
caseloads generated by more aggressive
policing activities. Although difficult to
measure with precision, the effect of this
constraint almost certainly has been to limit
the removal of offenders from target areas.
Setting up Weed and Seed at
the local level
The eight sites differed substantially in
how they organized their Weed and Seed
programs, due, in large part, to the unique
law enforcement and social needs and
existing organizational infrastructure and
resources available in each site. (See
“Study Methodology.”) In general, the sites
were organized along these lines:
Grantee organization.
The grantees
included mayors’ offices, local police
departments, and local nonprofit
501(c)(3) organizations. The staff as-
signed to the Weed and Seed effort and
their ability/authority to operate cohe-
sively in conjunction with community
representatives were among the most
important factors in successful program
implementation at the eight evaluation
sites. In general, an adequate supply of
dedicated staff resources, from both
grantees and other participating agencies,
produced positive results in program
implementation, oversight, and cohesion.
In most sites, the role actually played by
the grantee was dynamic, as key partici-
pants changed, programs and roles
evolved, and community and interagency
relationships developed.
The U.S. Attorney’s role.
The U.S.
Attorney is asked to play a central role in
organizing the steering committee and
Exhibit 1. Number of Weed and Seed sites and annual funding
Fiscal Year
Number of Funded Sites
Total Program Funding (millions)
* Since 1994, in addition to appropriated funds, the U.S. Department of Justice has allocated $9 million annu-
ally in Asset Forfeiture Funds for Weed and Seed-related task forces administered through the Drug Enforce-
ment Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other DOJ law enforcement agencies.
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eed and Seed is a strategy to
mobilize and coordinate resources in the
targeted communities rather than simply
a program or mechanism to fund local
activities that share no collective aim.
Weed and Seed is an “incubator for social
change” to stabilize the conditions in
high crime communities and to promote
community restoration.
The key compo-
nents of this strategy are as follows:
Enhanced coordination—Coordi-
nated analysis and planning of local prob-
lems and strategies to address them.
Weeding—Concentrated and
enhanced law enforcement efforts to
identify, arrest, and prosecute violent
offenders, drug traffickers, and other
criminals operating in the target areas.
The objective is to remove criminals from
the target areas.
Community policing—Proactive
police/community engagement and prob-
lem solving in which police officers are as-
signed to specified geographic locations.
By gaining the growing trust and support
of the community, police and prosecutors
engage residents and businesses as prob-
lem-solving partners in the law enforce-
ment effort. This effort is the bridge
between weeding and seeding.
Seeding—Human services—including
afterschool, weekend, and summer youth
activities; adult literacy classes; and paren-
tal counseling—and neighborhood revi-
talization efforts to prevent and deter
further crime.
The Federal oversight responsibility for
each participating site rests with the U.S.
Attorney’s Office for the corresponding dis-
trict. This decentralized arrangement was in-
tended to reinforce local participation while
at the same time providing a more hands-on
Federal role—in particular, to enable Federal
prosecutorial action to be more responsive
to local law enforcement initiatives. Other
components of each local organization’s
structure generally include:
The Weed and Seed steering committee,
which establishes operational goals, designs
and develops programs, guides implementa-
tion, and assesses program achievements.
The weeding committee, which plans and
monitors the law enforcement efforts,
including interdiction and prosecution.
The seeding committee, which plans and
monitors the prevention, intervention, treat-
ment, and neighborhood restoration efforts.
The Weed and Seed program staff,
who operate and maintain daily program
Each site is required to create at least one
“safe haven,” a highly visible and accessible
multiservice center where youths and adults
can receive needed services, develop rela-
tionships, enhance personal skills, and
find opportunities to be productive and
Special effort is made to keep
these safe havens secure from drug traffick-
ing and other criminal activities.
The full National Evaluation Research Re-
port is available in print and online. The
eight case studies are available online.
a. Executive Office for Weed and Seed, Opera-
tion Weed and Seed, Implementation Manual
Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice,
Office of Justice Programs, Executive Office for
Weed and Seed: 1–3 and 1–4.
b. The Executive Office for Weed and Seed
regards community policing as “increasing
police visibility and developing cooperative
relationships between the police and citizenry
in target areas.” The associated techniques
include foot patrols, police ministations, nui-
sance abatement, victim referrals to support
services, and community relations activities, in
which the community is encouraged to under-
take such initiatives as neighborhood watches,
citizen marches and rallies, drug-free zones,
and graffiti removal. See Executive Office for
Weed and Seed, Operation Weed and Seed,
Implementation Manual
: 9–6.
c. Executive Office for Weed and Seed, Weed
and Seed Fiscal Year 1998 Program Guide and
Application Kit for New Sites
, Attachment 2,
Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice,
Office of Justice Programs, Executive Office for
Weed and Seed, 1998: 2–1. In its literature,
the Executive Office for Weed and Seed de-
scribes safe havens as an integral part of a
“risk factor and protective factor” approach to
crime prevention. This is viewed as the coun-
terpart to comprehensive community-based
disease prevention programs, which have op-
erated effectively in the public health arena. In
the Weed and Seed context, risk factors, those
that make an individual susceptible to criminal
behavior, must be identified and addressed.
At the same time, protective factors, those
that serve to counter or neutralize risks, must
be enhanced.
What Is Weed and Seed?
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R e s e a r c h i n B r i e f
bringing together community organiza-
tions and other Weed and Seed partici-
pants. A basic Weed and Seed premise
is that the U.S. Attorney’s Office pro-
vides Federal oversight and coordinates
Federal, State, and local law enforce-
ment and prosecutorial activities, as
well as general DOJ oversight of the
Weed and Seed strategy. Through such
coordination, some sites effectively
used Federal law in weeding strategies
and mobilized resources for seeding
programs from a variety of Federal
agencies. In other sites, however, Weed
and Seed was managed and operated by
a city agency (e.g., a police depart-
ment), and the role played by the U.S.
Attorney was much more limited.
Police and prosecutors.
law enforcement resources are brought
to bear on targeted areas. Police and
prosecutors concentrate their efforts to
identify, arrest, and prosecute crimi-
nals, especially those engaging in drug
trafficking and violent crime. By provid-
ing more effective crime detection and
response, speedier investigations and
trials, and the stricter sentences avail-
able through Federal prosecution, po-
lice and prosecutors seek to get drug
dealers and other criminals off the
street. The goal of these activities is to
build trust and support with the resi-
dential and business communities.
Police and prosecutors can then engage
area residents and business people as
problem-solving partners, who, through
their cooperation, will promote further
arrests and prosecutions.
Steering committee.
The role and
composition of steering committees var-
ied among sites, with some dominated
by public-sector representatives and
others more heavily represented and
guided by community residents.
In general, the committees established
goals and objectives, provided guid-
ance and oversight on key program de-
sign and implementation issues, and
integrated weeding and seeding at the
policy level. In most sites, the steering
committee played a critical role in
coordinating efforts across agencies,
sectors, and jurisdictions. For several
sites, the steering committee or Weed
and Seed community organizations
provided a critical means of resident
participation in program decision-
making. Across all eight sites, steering
committee members included key pub-
lic agency representatives and local
government officials and various social
service providers, community-based
organizations, and residents.
Interorganizational linkages.
Increased interagency collaboration
was a central component of most weed-
ing strategies. Such efforts included
monthly meetings between Weed and
Exhibit 2. Target area characteristics
Site/Target Area(s)
W/S Start
Part I
Area in
Crime Rate*
Square Miles
Akron: West Side
October 1995
Hartford: Stowe Village
January 1995
Las Vegas:
Meadows Village
October 1994
West Las Vegas
October 1994
North Manatee
October 1994
South Manatee
October 1994
Pittsburgh: Hill District
April 1992
Salt Lake City: West Side
March 1995
Seattle: Central District
January 1993
Shreveport: Highland/Stoner Hill
February 1995
*Per 1,000 residents in the year preceding implementation of Weed and Seed.
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R e s e a r c h i n B r i e f
fewer questions than the 1995 survey. The
decision to proceed in 1997 with telephone
interviewing and a shorter questionnaire was
based on the difficulties experienced in 1995
in completing the targeted number of inter-
views per site.
To analyze arrest and crime patterns in the
10 Weed and Seed target areas, the re-
search team requested computerized inci-
dent-level data from law enforcement
agencies, including basic facts about each
arrest, crime (e.g., when and where the
crime was committed), and associated crimi-
nal charges. Because the primary interest
was in arrests that were made and crimes
that occurred in the target areas, procedures
were developed to identify those arrests and
crimes from data files provided by each juris-
diction. In most cases, the procedures in-
volved geocoding the address where the
arrest was made or where the crime was
The focus has also been on the seven Part I
crimes—homicide, rape, robbery, aggra-
vated assault, burglary, larceny, and auto
theft. Although these crimes account for
only one segment of the overall crime prob-
lem (ignoring, for example, order mainte-
nance and other crimes closely associated
with quality-of-life issues), there are standard
definitions of these crimes that all law en-
forcement agencies follow, thus allowing for
site-to-site comparisons. Given that control-
ling drug trafficking and drug-related crime
is one of the key Weed and Seed objectives,
the researchers also focused on drug arrests.
Onsite observation of programs. Inter-
views were conducted with seeding program
participants in each site (excluding Akron,
Ohio) to gain their perspectives. Evaluation
staff visited 4 to 6 programs in each of
the sites and conducted interviews with
groups of 7 to 10 people. These interviews
were not intended to measure outcomes
of the programs that were visited; rather,
they were designed to learn the perceived
benefits and drawbacks of the programs
from the individuals who participated in
them. Long-term effects of these pro-
grams on the lives of the program partici-
pants cannot be deduced from the
interviews conducted.
The seeding programs that were visited
fall under four general categories: youth
recreation and education, community
building, employment and training, and
violence prevention. Programs visited
included Police Activities (or Athletic)
Leagues, Boys and Girls Club Athletic Pro-
grams, Safe Haven After-School Programs,
and Youth Enrichment Programs. Based
on the comments of the participants inter-
viewed, the seeding programs appeared to
provide services that would otherwise not
have been available in the target areas.
Most of the interviewees also indicated
participation in the seeding programs has
been a positive experience that helped
them feel more secure emotionally, physi-
cally, or both. The general themes that
emerged focused on providing additional
structure and discipline in the lives of
target area youths and providing opportu-
nities and assistance for adults to work
toward personal and professional growth.
he National Evaluation of opera-
tion Weed and Seed was designed to
gain the perspective of target area resi-
dents in eight sites, to assess the trends in
arrests and crime in those areas, and to
draw from the personal experiences of
participants in the seeding programs. The
evaluation included a wide variety of ac-
tivities at each site as follows:
A review of funding applications and
other significant program documents.
Individual interviews with key program
administrators, senior law enforcement
staff, managers of seeding organizations
and activities, service providers (both cur-
rent and former), and community leaders.
Analysis of automated, incident-level
crime and arrest records provided by the
local police departments.
Group interviews with seeding pro-
gram participants.
Resident surveys in target areas, con-
ducted in June 1995 by the Institute for
Social Analysis and in December 1997 by
Abt Associates Inc.
Resident surveys. To a large extent,
both surveys focused on the same is-
sues—resident perceptions of crime,
public safety, police performance and
activities, quality of life, and awareness
of the Weed and Seed program. There
were, however, some differences in the
methods used in the two surveys. The
1995 survey consisted of 1,531 in-person
interviews, while the 1,995 interviews in
1997 were conducted by telephone. In
addition, the 1997 survey consisted of
Study Methodology
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R e s e a r c h i n B r i e f
Seed officers and probation/parole
officers to catch parole violators, fre-
quent joint Federal and local special
narcotics operations, and the creation
of formal interagency Weed and Seed
law enforcement task forces, such as
in Las Vegas, Manatee/Sarasota Coun-
ties, and Pittsburgh. In Salt Lake City,
Weed and Seed worked closely with
the existing Metro Narcotics Task
Force, which focused on high-level
drug dealers.
The eight Weed and Seed sites tried to
build their seeding programs around
existing resources, in addition to creat-
ing new partnerships. For example,
Hartford Weed and Seed integrated
seeding efforts with the existing U.S.
Department of Housing and Urban
Development (HUD) Family Invest-
ment Center, and the Salt Lake City
Weed and Seed program built on the
Comprehensive Communities Program.
Extensive partnerships and collabora-
tions were created through Weed and
Seed in the public and private sectors,
with most of the private-sector partner-
ships with nonprofit and community-
based organizations. In Shreveport, for
example, Weed and Seed arranged for
existing services to come to the target
area, including free immunizations for
children provided by the State Depart-
ment of Public Health, a library book-
mobile, and free computer training
from a local university. In Seattle, the
Washington Insurance Council joined
Weed and Seed to establish the Seattle
Neighborhood Action Program as a
public/private partnership to help revi-
talize a Weed and Seed neighborhood.
Seeding program partners and provid-
ers who were interviewed emphasized
how Weed and Seed increased coordi-
nation and communication links
among neighborhood groups and other
agencies. Almost all respondents said
they felt more connected to the com-
munity and service providers. A direc-
tor of a youth service organization in
Shreveport said:
Establishing partnerships is the key
to Weed and Seed—cooperation on
projects and working together to
bring the community together.
[You] can touch more people as a
group of organizations than as a
single entity.
Building trust and
community capacity
Several of the evaluation sites encoun-
tered early community resistance to
Weed and Seed because residents
were concerned about an exclusive
focus on enforcement or the potential
for targeted harassment. The clear
lesson from these experiences was the
importance of involving residents early
in Weed and Seed planning, providing
residents with substantial program
authority, and nurturing higher levels
of interaction and trust between pub-
lic-sector representatives and those
they serve. The seeding component
and community policing were typically
the intended means for building com-
munity trust and encouraging partici-
pation. In the initial concept, it was
assumed these elements would follow
intensified enforcement. In practice,
it became apparent to many Weed
and Seed organizers that the target
areas had to become involved at the
outset and a comprehensive strategic
plan was needed to bring this about.
Even when target areas had strong
preexisting community organizational
infrastructures, considerable resources
were needed to effectively catalyze
resident participation and increase the
organizations’ scope of operations and
outreach. Weed and Seed sites that
employed a bottom-up, grassroots
approach tended to build trust among
residents and community-based lead-
ers and enhanced community capacity
for crime prevention and reduction
and social development.
Weed and Seed also provided a forum
for leadership development among
residents. In Salt Lake City, for ex-
ample, a resident took the lead in the
initial Weed and Seed grant applica-
tion and played an instrumental role
in early program implementation. In
the North and South Manatee target
areas, charismatic individual leaders
emerged who essentially ran the safe
havens as volunteers and directed a
variety of community activities. For all
sites, it remained a central organiza-
tional challenge to continuously
develop and broaden leadership to
implement and sustain the Weed and
Seed strategy.
Approach to law enforcement
Most sites developed and implemented
coherent law enforcement strategies
that responded to local conditions and
incorporated stronger patrols at the
street level with some degree of higher
level interagency cooperation. Law en-
forcement approaches across the target
areas typically included increased
police presence through additional
staffing and overtime, with the major-
ity of sites assigning officers dedicated
to the target area, and increased spe-
cial operations for targeted law en-
forcement, especially for drug-related
and violent crime.
Multiagency task forces.
The sites
developed varying degrees of increased
local, State, and Federal coordination,
whether in targeting offenders, narcot-
ics operations, prosecution, or proba-
tion/parole. Local responses ranged
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R e s e a r c h i n B r i e f
from increasing communication through
monthly meetings to creating formal in-
teragency and multijurisdictional task
force operations housed at the same fa-
cility. Although multiagency task forces
concentrated on the target area, they
pursued drug cases across jurisdic-
tional lines. Consequently, the benefits
of these efforts extended beyond the
target areas, particularly when the fo-
cus was on high-level drug dealers who
controlled large operations. Task force
missions varied primarily according to
the nature of crime in the target areas
and preexisting law enforcement opera-
tions, so the Weed and Seed task forces
complemented existing efforts.
The community policing bridge.
The implementation of Weed and
Seed enabled most sites to expand or
strengthen community policing efforts
or institute new programs; better con-
centrate, coordinate, and integrate
efforts within police departments; and
increase integration of law enforce-
ment with seeding type activities.
Community policing initiatives such
as nuisance abatement, landlord pro-
grams, graffiti eradication, code en-
forcement, and neighborhood cleanups
helped improve property maintenance
and neighborhood environments.
Officers participated in a wide range
of youth recreation and education
programs in the target areas. Such
activities engaged local youths in
constructive activity, provided positive
role models for the youths, and built
community relations.
The assignment of dedicated officers
to the Weed and Seed target areas was
important in building relationships
with residents and in aiding enforce-
ment through better knowledge of
the neighborhood, better intelligence,
and the ability to operate proactively.
In Shreveport, for example, many
residents knew the four dedicated
“bumble bees”—the bicycle patrol
officers in their yellow shirts and black
shorts—and, in Pittsburgh, residents
lobbied to keep one of their Weed and
Seed officers from being reassigned to
another district. One police lieutenant
in Las Vegas would find jobs for gang
members, and, occasionally, he would
drive them to their jobs or check with
their supervisors to see how the youths
were doing on the job. Although weed-
ing has typically involved less resident
participation than has seeding, com-
munication between residents and the
police seems to have increased across
In addition to enhancing community
policing efforts, Weed and Seed
provided a vehicle for mobilizing resi-
dents to participate in crime preven-
tion and, in some cases, for creating
effective structures for community
authority and leadership. Responses
ranged from increasing neighborhood
watches, to community meetings, to a
citizens’ advisory committee that pro-
vided guidance on law enforcement
The U.S. Attorney’s role.
At the
Federal level, the U.S. Attorney’s two
potential roles were to serve as:
A coordinator or “people mover”
for Weed and Seed operations. For
example, when the U.S. Attorney
chaired steering committee meet-
ings and used resources of the
Office of the Attorney General in
the process, this served as a stimu-
lus to other partners.
A key player in multijurisdictional
task forces when the focus was on
high-level drug distribution and
sales. This helped to integrate,
coordinate, and focus local and
Federal enforcement efforts.
In Las Vegas, for example, the U.S.
Attorney’s Office played both roles
during the early stages of program
implementation. The role played by
the U.S. Attorney in each area might
be strong or weak, depending on the
personalities and motivations of the
partners involved.
Overall, prosecution
has been a relatively weak link in
Weed and Seed due to various institu-
tional, political, and judicial issues.
In the majority of sites, there was no
special Federal or local prosecution
or tracking of Weed and Seed cases
except for efforts conducted by joint
Federal/State/local task forces. In gen-
eral, district attorneys operate with
limited resources and in politicized
environments that act as barriers to the
provision of the additional resources
needed for local prosecution of Weed
and Seed cases. Some local prosecu-
tors said although weeding activities
generated more criminal complaints,
their office budget was not increased
to hire new prosecutors or to cover the
operating costs that would be added
by enhanced prosecution of Part II or
quality-of-life offenses.
At the local level, police departments
and prosecutors often work through
different political systems. Most
police departments are city based and
receive their local and Federal funding
through their city council. That pro-
cess is fairly well defined in most cit-
ies. Prosecutors, on the other hand,
often are county based and receive
their funding from the county. This
funding process often encompasses
multiple municipal priorities and
other competing political consider-
ations. The role of Federal prosecution
also varied from no or few Federal
prosecutions to substantially increased
Federal, State, and local cooperation.
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Approach to seeding
One of the greatest challenges for the
sites was to develop an appropriate
seeding strategy with community
members that targeted Weed and Seed
resources most effectively and lever-
aged existing public and private
resources. Simply selecting and suc-
cessfully implementing seeding pro-
grams, such as safe havens, in itself
was more difficult for most sites than
implementing their weeding programs,
with some sites initially stumbling at
this level of program execution.
Seeding was inherently a broader and
more complex task, both in develop-
ment of goals and strategies and from
a practical organizational standpoint.
Seeding efforts involved engaging par-
ticipation and commitment from pub-
lic- and private-sector organizations,
whereas weeding had a relatively
clearer mission, operating within more
established hierarchical structures of
law enforcement and criminal justice
organizations. Due to the broader and
less defined nature of seeding, rela-
tively more time was needed for
planning, relationship building, and
gaining consensus and commitment
from the wide range of participants
who shaped this domain. Seeding, by
its nature, is resistant to short-term
fixes designed to produce observable,
overnight results.
The eight Weed and Seed sites tried to
build their programs around existing
resources, in addition to creating new
partnerships. Seeding program part-
ners and providers who were inter-
viewed emphasized how Weed and
Seed increased coordination and com-
munication links across neighborhood
groups and other agencies. Weed and
Seed sites reflected different emphases
in funding local seeding programs—
with varying degrees of program
breadth, depth, and duration. In sev-
eral sites, providing communities with
a voice in the seeding grant award pro-
cess was critical to gaining community
participation and trust.
Seeding initiatives undertaken by the
evaluation sites can be clustered as
follows, in order of predominance:
Prevention and intervention pro-
grams for youths that included
afterschool programs, safe
havens, recreation and sports
programs, skills and employment
training, job development, and
health and substance abuse-related
Neighborhood restoration, such as
neighborhood cleanups and code
Community building and commu-
nity development initiatives.
Adult employment and economic
advancement programs, such as
computer, Internet, and educational
Family support services targeted to
Community economic development.
Impact on crime trends
Across the evaluation sites, crime
patterns varied widely. As exhibits
3a and 3b show, in nine target areas
available data allowed a comparison of
the number of Part I crimes (homicide,
rape, robbery, aggravated assault, bur-
glary, larceny, and auto theft) in the
year prior to program implementation
to the second year of Weed and Seed.
Six of these areas showed declines:
Stowe Village in Hartford, 46 percent;
Crawford-Roberts (one neighborhood
within the Hill District) in Pittsburgh,
24 percent; North Manatee, 18 per-
cent; the Shreveport target area, 11
percent; the Central District in Seattle,
10 percent; and West Las Vegas,
6 percent. Three target areas experi-
enced increases in Part I crimes:
South Manatee, 2 percent; Meadows
Village in Las Vegas, 9 percent; and
Salt Lake City, 14 percent. A compa-
rable estimate was not possible for the
Akron target area due to insufficient
During this same time period, in seven
target areas—Hartford, Pittsburgh
(Crawford-Roberts), North Manatee,
South Manatee, Shreveport, West Las
Vegas, and Salt Lake City—Part I
crime rates declined more or increased
less than in the rest of the city or
A relationship appears to exist be-
tween crime trends and the concentra-
tion of program resources in sites that
had the largest increases or decreases
in crime. Hartford, for example, has
the smallest target area in terms of
population and area, while Salt Lake
City has the largest single target area
in square miles and, along with Akron,
the smallest level of Federal Weed and
Seed funding. (See exhibit 2.)
Finally, changes in the drug arrest
rates appear to follow the same general
pattern as the changes in the Part I
crime rate. For example, among those
six target areas for which there are
arrest data, the four with decreases
in Part I crime from the year prior to
Weed and Seed through the second
year of implementation (i.e., Hartford,
Pittsburgh, North Manatee, and
Shreveport) all experienced initial
high rates of drug arrests—suggesting
an initial period of intense weeding
activities—followed by declining
drug arrest rates. Assuming the level
background image
R e s e a r c h i n B r i e f
Exhibit 3a. Percent change in Part I crime from the year preceding Weed &
Seed to year 1 and to year 2: target areas
* Year-to-year comparisons in Salt Lake City are based on 5-month periods only. Weed and Seed
started in August 1995, and data are available only back to March 1995.
Exhibit 3b. Percent change in Part I crime from the year preceding Weed &
Seed to year 1 and to year 2: comparison areas
* Year-to-year comparisons in Salt Lake City are based on 5-month periods only. Weed and Seed
started in August 1995, and data are available only back to March 1995.
of enforcement as measured by police
presence has remained somewhat con-
stant, this trend reflects success in re-
ducing drug activity. However, the Salt
Lake City target area and South Mana-
tee both experienced large increases
in the number of drug arrests in 1997
compared with 1996, suggesting per-
haps these sites had not yet succeeded
in reducing the level of drug activity
in the target areas. In the case of Salt
Lake City, an influx of gang activity is
an important contextual factor, raising
the question of whether the crime rate
would have been even higher there
without Weed and Seed.
Assessing the Weed and
Seed strategy
The evaluation investigated two major
questions: What factors appeared to
help or inhibit successful implementa-
tion of Weed and Seed; and did detect-
able changes in outcome measures
take place as a consequence of Weed
and Seed?
Effects on crime and public
Regarding the specific survey-reported
pattern of residents’ perceptions of
crime, public safety, and police perfor-
mance, the target areas cluster into
three groups:
North Manatee and Pittsburgh
exhibited substantial evidence of
changes in residents’ perceptions
across multiple outcome measures,
including the severity of crime and
police effectiveness in controlling
Akron, Hartford, and Seattle exhib-
ited some evidence of changes in
residents’ perceptions on selected
crime dimensions, either drug-
related crime (Akron and Seattle)
year 2
year 1
Stoner Hill
Central District
West Side
(Salt Lake City)*
Las Vegas
(Las Vegas)
Stowe Village
West Side
year 2
year 1
Salt Lake City*
Manatee County
Las Vegas
background image
R e s e a r c h i n B r i e f
or violent and gang-related crime
Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, and
Shreveport exhibited little evidence
of changes in residents’ perceptions
of general public safety or the
severity of specific types of crime
in the neighborhood.
Based on the pattern of findings on
the rate of Part I crimes as well as
responses to crime-related survey
questions, the target areas fall into
four categories, first according to the
evidence of reduced Part I crimes and
then (within each category) according
to the evidence of improved public
Pittsburgh and Hartford showed
strong evidence of reduced Part I
crimes and improved public per-
ceptions on crime-related measures
(e.g., reduction of fear of crime,
public safety).
Manatee/Sarasota (North Manatee)
and Shreveport showed substantial
evidence of reduced Part I crimes.
(North Manatee also showed im-
proved public perceptions on mul-
tiple crime-related measures.)
Seattle, Akron, Las Vegas (West
Las Vegas), and Manatee/Sarasota
(South Manatee) showed some evi-
dence of reduced Part I crimes.
(Akron and Seattle also showed
improved public perceptions.)
Salt Lake City and Las Vegas
(Meadows Village) showed no evi-
dence of reduced Part I crimes.
Factors favoring successful
implementation of Weed
and Seed
Of course, these findings must be in-
terpreted in terms of local circum-
stances and program approaches.
What factors appear to have promoted
successful implementation of the
program and thus have promoted the
achievement of the program’s intended
results? To address this question, the
evaluation considered site characteris-
tics and program features.
Community setting.
community features may make Weed
and Seed easier or more difficult to
operate effectively. Important factors
included the strength of the social and
institutional infrastructure (an estab-
lished network of community-based
organizations and community leaders),
the severity of crime problems, geo-
graphical advantages favoring eco-
nomic development, and transiency of
the community population. The last
factor is particularly important. Rapid
turnover, as in the case of Meadows
Village in Las Vegas, undermines the
crime-fighting effect of community
policing and makes it difficult, if not
impossible, to generate the ongoing
community involvement that is a key
element in the Weed and Seed
Program design.
The mix of weeding
and seeding activities and the sequen-
cing of these components appear to be
important factors in gaining community
support for the program. Important
positive factors included early seeding,
sustained weeding, high-level task
forces combined with community po-
licing, and an active prosecutorial role.
Concentration of funds.
As is to
be expected, sites appeared to have
greater impact on crime rates if they
concentrated their program resources
on smaller population groups, espe-
cially if they could similarly channel
other public funds and also leverage
private funds. The important factors
included funding “intensity” (applying
funding to a narrowly targeted group of
residents in a small geographical area)
and channeling and leveraging other
Leadership and partnership.
A less
tangible ingredient that characterized
the more successful programs was the
active and constructive leadership of
key individuals. By its very nature,
Weed and Seed places a great pre-
mium on effective coordination of
groups with different organizational
missions, responding to different
constituencies. To establish effective
working relationships among these or-
ganizations required personal energy
and initiative and an organizational
structure that facilitated interaction.
For example, those sites that based
weeding and seeding staff in the same
facility tended to develop better coop-
eration and coordination between the
two program components.
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 organiza-
tions. This required a long-term per-
spective about the program and its
potential to bring about community
change. Such sites, including some
that achieved substantial crime reduc-
tions within the time period analyzed,
have established a stronger foundation
and more sustainable basis for further
community-targeted initiatives.
Policy implications
In charting the future direction of
Weed and Seed, policymakers have a
number of strategic choices to make.
These include designating sites for
continued funding, selecting sites
for new awards, and allocating funds
background image
R e s e a r c h i n B r i e f
Where Is Weed and Seed Going?
Funds, Asset Forfeiture Funds, COPS hiring
awards) as well as other Federal, State,
local, and private resources. The long-
range objective is for recipient sites to use
the Weed and Seed funds to develop suc-
cessful, self-sustaining community-based
Consistent with the program’s emphasis
on flexibility and customer orientation,
sites are given considerable latitude to de-
velop programs with the Executive Office
for Weed and Seed grant funds and to
request training and technical assistance.
Increasingly, experienced sites are asked to
provide peer-to-peer training to show new
and developing sites what to do and what
to avoid to develop successful local pro-
grams. Sites are encouraged to organize
regional training sessions to facilitate these
exchanges and coordinate with other
Federal agency partners.
In addition to providing funding directly
to sites, Weed and Seed supports many
multisite activities. For example, in coop-
eration with the U.S. Navy Drug Demand
Reduction Task Force and other military
partners, Weed and Seed supports the
implementation of the Drug Education for
Youth (DEFY) program in Weed and Seed
communities. Weed and Seed DEFY sites
increased from 3 in 1996 to 60 in 1999.
among participating sites over time.
(See “Where is Weed and Seed go-
ing?”) The key policy question is how
to use program funds most effectively
in ways that make the greatest long-
term contributions to controlling crime
and promoting a safe living environ-
ment for residents. Other nonfunding
considerations include improved coor-
dination among Federal, State, and
local public and private partners.
The experience of the eight sites
evaluated suggests Weed and Seed has
affected the target areas through either
(or both) of two avenues. The first,
program effectiveness, relates to the
specific initiatives that focus on law
enforcement and crime prevention.
These activities, both on the weeding
and seeding sides, appeared to have
varying degrees of success in reducing
crime and improving perceptions of
public safety. The second, community
mobilization, is the process in which
Weed and Seed provides a catalyst for
greater involvement of neighborhood
residents and community-based orga-
nizations. As mentioned earlier, some
sites were more predisposed than oth-
ers to participatory problem-solving
arrangements by virtue of their preex-
isting infrastructure and active leader-
ship by respected individuals and
established organizations.
These two mechanisms of change are
clearly interrelated. The experience of
the sites studied here showed:
The Weed and Seed program has
been a strong stimulant to community
coalition building. Public and private
organizations came together, for the
first time in a number of sites, to de-
velop interventions that would have a
broad base of support. It seems clear
these developments would not have
occurred in the absence of Weed and
Seed influence. To maximize impact
on crime rates, Weed and Seed
should seek the highest feasible con-
centration of funds in the program
sites. Given the annual funding con-
straint of the congressional appro-
priations process, this implies a more
selective process in choosing sites to
receive new awards and/or limiting
the number of years that ongoing
sites receive program funding. Hav-
ing a concentrated and focused stra-
tegic effort is also an important
means of increasing the intensity of
the intervention. Increasing coordina-
tion with other Federal funding
sources is another key element. Fur-
thermore, the evaluation finds that
Weed and Seed funding has acted
as a significant catalyst for general
community revitalization efforts and
that most target area communities
have undertaken programs and
created beneficial community
eginning in 1996, the Weed and
Seed program altered its paradigm and
approach to site longevity and funding
levels. After funding 36 sites as part of a
3-year demonstration at approximately
$750,000 per site, funding was extended
to additional sites at a lower level. By
1997, Weed and Seed funding was
offered to almost 120 sites, typically at
$250,000 per year. At this new, lower
annual funding level per site, Weed and
Seed appropriated funds to 176 sites in
1998. In 1999 the program grew to ap-
proximately 200 sites, despite a drop in
total national funding.
In fiscal year 2000, new policies will re-
quire the original 36 sites to submit com-
prehensive reapplications to be eligible
for funding. Subsequently, every site
must reapply after 5 years of continuous
funding. This new approach is consistent
with the basic Weed and Seed strategy of
pursuing effectiveness through coordina-
tion and leveraging of additional public
and private resources (in many cases, sev-
eral times the amount of Weed and Seed
Additional resources sites are urged to
investigate include other U.S. Department
of Justice funding streams (e.g., Local
Law Enforcement Block Grants, Byrne
Formula Grants, Juvenile Justice Formula
background image
U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Justice Programs
National Institute of Justice
Washington, DC 20531
Official Business
Penalty for Private Use $300
Findings and conclusions of the research
reported here are those of the author(s) and do
not necessarily reflect the official position or
policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Terence Dunworth, Ph.D., is man-
aging vice president and project
director at Abt Associates Inc.
Gregory Mills, Ph.D., is a senior
associate at Abt Associates Inc.
NCJ 175685
The National Institute of Justice is a
component of the Office of Justice
Programs, which also includes the Bureau
of Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice
Statistics, the Office of Juvenile Justice and
Delinquency Prevention, and the Office for
Victims of Crime.
This document, the full cross site analy-
sis, the eight case studies, and other NIJ
publications can be found at and down-
loaded from the NIJ Web site (http://
The research for this study was sup-
ported under grant number 95–DD–
BX–0134 by the National Institute of
Justice, Office of Justice Programs,
U.S. Department of Justice.
organizations that likely would not
have come into existence without
Weed and Seed.
In selecting sites for new program
funding, Weed and Seed should
place its funding priority on sites
with geographically small target
areas and with favorable commu-
nity settings and program designs.
This is more likely to produce de-
monstrable successes. In turn, this
should increase potential spinoffs
from the Weed and Seed target area
to other areas in the site.
The Executive Office for Weed and
Seed should expand its provision of
technical assistance to the funded
sites. The lessons learned from the
more successful sites—and the less
successful ones—on these issues
are, to a large degree, widely appli-
cable. New sites should receive
the benefit of this experience. This
seems especially important in pro-
moting the partnership arrange-
ments that have characterized the
more successful programs examined
in this research.
1. The most rigorous means of establishing
the counterfactual is an experimental design in
which the intervention, in this case Operation
Weed and Seed, is not implemented among a
randomly selected set of subjects, in this case
the sites. Such a design was infeasible in this
context. Another approach would have been to
match each evaluation site with a comparison
site of similar baseline characteristics. At an
earlier stage of this evaluation, the National
Institute of Justice (NIJ) and the Institute for
R e s e a r c h i n B r i e f
Social Analysis identified such comparison
sites and included them in the 1995 survey of
community residents and other baseline data
collection efforts. Soon thereafter, however, NIJ
and Abt Associates concluded the comparison
sites were not sufficiently comparable to their
corresponding target areas in demographic
characteristics and crime trends. The matched
site approach was not pursued further. See
Terence Dunworth, et al., Overview of Institute
for Social Analysis National Evaluation
Baseline Data and Implications of the Data for
the Weed and Seed Impact Evaluation
, Cam-
bridge, MA: Abt Associates Inc., January 1996.
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