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MONDAY, JULY 12, 1999202/307-0703


National Weed and Seed Report Indicates Significant Drop in Crime in Target Area

PITTSBURGH, PA - An evaluation of the Justice Department's Weed and Seed effort in Pittsburgh's Crawford-Roberts neighborhoods indicates a 24 per cent drop in the most serious of crimes, according to a just released Justice Department report. The report was released today during ceremonies in Pittsburgh.

The evaluation found significant favorable effects of Weed and Seed on key outcome measures for some sites and time periods. The survey also found that the Weed and Seed program has been a strong stimulant to community coalition building. The report indicates that public and private organizations came together, for the first time in a number of sites, to develop interventions that would have a broad base of support. The Justice Department evaluation concludes that it is clear these developments would not have occurred in the absence of the Weed and Seed influence.

The Justice Department's research arm, the National Institute of Justice, held a competition to select the evaluator of the sites. Abt Associates, one of the largest government and business consulting and research firms in the country, was selected to carry out the evaluation of eight sites, including Pittsburgh. The program, which began with three sites in 1991, has grown to include more than 200 sites nationwide.

Operation Weed and Seed is a multi-agency strategy that "weeds out" violent crime, gang activity, drug use, and drug trafficking in targeted neighborhoods and then "seeds" the target area by restoring these neighborhoods through social and economic revitalization. The Weed and Seed strategy recognizes the importance of linking and integrating federal, state, and local law enforcement and criminal justice efforts with federal, state, and local social services, and private sector and community efforts to maximize the impact of existing programs and resources. It also recognizes the paramount importance of community involvement. Community residents must be empowered to assist in solving problems in their neighborhoods. In addition, the private sector is involved as a pivotal partner in the Weed and Seed strategy.

Besides Pittsburgh, the evaluation looked at sites in Akron, Ohio; Hartford, Connecticut; Las Vegas, Nevada; Manatee and Sarasota Counties, Florida; Salt Lake City, Utah; Seattle, Washington; and Shreveport, Louisiana. The evaluation found that the effectiveness of program activities varied across the eight sites. Some of the factors found were:

Across the evaluation sites, crime patterns varied widely. Among the target areas for which 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, five sites, besides Pittsburgh, showed declines: Stowe Village in Hartford, 46 percent; North Manatee, 18 percent; the Shreveport target area, 11 percent; and the Central District in Seattle, 10 percent. West Las Vegas had a 6 percent decrease in serious crime.

Three target sites experienced increases in serious crime: South Manatee, 2 percent; Meadows Village in Las Vegas, 9 percent; and Salt Lake City, 14 percent. An estimate was not possible for the Akron target area due to insufficient data. During this same time period, in six target areas--Hartford, Pittsburgh, North Manatee, South Manatee, Shreveport, West Las Vegas--serious crime rates declined more than in the rest of the city or county. Also, serious crime in the Salt Lake City target area and South Manatee decreased in1997, the latest reporting period. The Justice Department evaluation found that a relationship appears to exist between crime trends and the concentration 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, smallest level of federal Weed and Seed funding.

The National Institute of Justice evaluation also finds that changes in the drug arrest rates appear to follow the same general pattern in the sites as the changes in the serious crime rate. For example, among those six target areas for which there are arrest data, the four with decreases in serious 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. The report indicates that this trend reflects success in reducing drug activity. However, the evaluation points out that the Salt Lake City and South Manatee target areas both experienced large increases in the number of drug arrests in 1997 compared to 1996, suggesting that perhaps these sites had not yet succeeded in reducing the level of drug activity in the target areas.

For further information on this report, contact the Office of Congressional and Public Affairs at 202/307-0703.

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