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WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 27, 1997202/307-0703


ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI -- A national conference sponsored by the Justice Department is spotlighting the progress of the "Weed and Seed" program in helping communities "weed out" violent crime, gang activity, drug trafficking and drug use, and "seed in" neighborhood revitalization. The program started in 1991 with three sites, and now has more than 120 sites nationwide.

Weed and Seed is a key component of the Justice Department's anti-violence program. Community policing and law enforcement are central to Weed and Seed, as are prevention, intervention and treatment. Neighborhood restoration is another element of the strategy.

"Through Weed and Seed, communities from across the nation are coming together to make their neighborhoods safer," said Attorney General Janet Reno, who addressed conference participants today. "This conference will help these communities learn from each other about what works."

"Justice begins in the local communities we serve," added Laurie Robinson, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs (OJP). "The Justice Department is developing and funding a wide range of initiatives, like Weed and Seed, to help local communities take a more coordinated, comprehensive approach to crime control and prevention. We are working with communities to change the landscape of urban America."

The conference, which will continue through tomorrow, is the largest gathering ever of representatives from Weed and Seed sites. The 750 participants include local Weed and Seed coordinators, community residents, police chiefs, mayors and criminal justice practitioners on the federal, state and local levels. Participants are exchanging ideas and strategies for improving their neighborhoods. Conference session topics include community policing, hate crimes, community mobilization, prevention programs and anti-gang efforts.

The conference is spotlighting Weed and Seed sites such as San Jose, California, where gang- related incidents in the targeted neighborhood decreased by 18 percent in the last six months of 1996 compared to the same time period in 1995. The site has also established a new Teen Center and a "resident academy, " which trains neighborhood leaders in volunteer recruitment and other community mobilization techniques. The conference is also examining the Savannah, Georgia, Weed and Seed site, which has found jobs for 120 neighborhood residents, rehabilitated 111 housing units and introduced over 500 children to "Smart Moves," a drug prevention and sex education program.

"San Jose, Savannah and countless others have shown what communities with commitment and resources can accomplish," said Stephen Rickman, Director of the Department's Executive Office for Weed and Seed (EOWS), which administers the Weed and Seed program. "We know that our Weed and Seed sites are committed to making a difference in their communities, and this conference is helping them learn about the types of resources that are available."

The Weed and Seed program links federal, state and local law enforcement and criminal justice resources with social services, as well as with private and community efforts. All Weed and Seed sites must demonstrate their capacity to obtain resources from both the public and private sectors. The local U.S. Attorney plays a major role in coordinating the local Weed and Seed program.

To learn more about the Weed and Seed program, call the National Criminal Justice Reference Service at 1-800/851-3420 or visit the EOWS web site at Members of the media should contact OJP's Office of Congressional and Public Affairs at 202/307-0703.

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EOWS 97116

After hours, contact: Adam Spector, 202/516-6843