THE HONORABLE DEBORAH J. DANIELS
ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
OFFICE OF JUSTICE PROGRAMS
WEED AND SEED LAW ENFORCEMENT COORDINATION WORKSHOP
JUNE 18, 2002
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
Thank you, Larry. We greatly appreciate your presence with us today, and your strong support for the Weed and Seed Initiative.
I'm delighted to be here with all of you as well, and I want to thank you for all you are doing to reduce crime in your communities through Weed and Seed and other efforts. It's the support and collaboration within individual communities that makes the difference, and I want you to know that we at the Department of Justice fully understand that and appreciate all your hard work.
I'll have the opportunity in a moment to formally introduce Jimmy Gurule, my predecessor in my current position and now Undersecretary for Enforcement at the Department of the Treasury.
But I also want to thank COPS director Carl Peed for being here, and for the support his office has given to Weed and Seed. OJP and COPS work closely together, both to enhance the community policing component of Weed and Seed and on other law enforcement initiatives. Our partnership illustrates how much can be accomplished by coordinating efforts and pooling resources. And that's certainly one of the messages we hope you'll take home from this conference.
I have been honored to be a part of Weed and Seed history, both as the United States Attorney helping to start Weed and Seed in my home town of Indianapolis, and also as the office's first director in Washington, DC. And I'm delighted to have the opportunity to work with Weed and Seed again as Assistant Attorney General for OJP.
During the over 10 years that I've been involved in Weed and Seed, I've seen firsthand how powerful Weed and Seed partnerships can be in ensuring public safety. The whole basis of the Weed and Seed approach to crime reduction and community revitalization is coordination and partnership - both on the federal level and within the local community.
The work of the Weed and Seed Steering Committees - in bringing together residents, law enforcement, faith-based groups, local businesses, schools, government officials, and others - provides the coordination and collaboration that's so crucial in building the community coalitions needed to sustain the Weed and Seed strategy over the long term.
At the same time, it's critical that we maintain a focus on coordination and partnership in our weeding activities, as well. If there's one glaring lesson we've learned in the aftermath of September 11th, it's that - to ensure the public safety, to save lives, and to protect our communities from terrorism, as well as from more traditional crime - we need law enforcement to work together better, to coordinate efforts, to communicate, and to share information.
As you know, on the federal level, at the Department of Justice - including most prominently the FBI, and the other federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies - we're working to put our own house in order and to do a better job of sharing information with each other and with state and local law enforcement. But we also need those of you at the state and local levels to focus on improving coordination and communication, for the same reasons. It's the only way for us all to be successful - and now, we know that it is the very survival of our citizens that is at stake.
We've designed this workshop to give you some ideas about how to maximize law enforcement coordination in your sites and some of the resources that are available to you for this purpose. Because of the importance of coordinated law enforcement efforts in Weed and Seed, this year, as you probably know, we're requiring our grantees to use at least 50 percent of their Weed and Seed grant funds for weeding purposes.
This reflects Attorney General Ashcroft's direction that we focus Department of Justice funding to advance law enforcement, which is our core mission. There are lots of sources of funding available from other agencies to fill the human services and community revitalization responsibilities of the government sector, and these should be coupled with resources from the corporate and not-for-profit sector to address the "seeding" side.
Our funds will never stretch far enough even to cover all your law enforcement needs, and they're not meant to. Our funds are designed to fill the gaps after you've already accessed available state, local, not-for-profit, private, and other federal resources.
And it's important to start building those funding partnerships now. As you know, we have provided Weed and Seed funding in 5-year cycles. During that time, communities are expected to develop resources and build partnerships to sustain your Weed and Seed strategies after our grant funding ends - and over the long term.
Through this workshop and other efforts, we're working to help you identify and access those resources. For example, HUD recently made $10 million in additional funding available to help Weed and Seed sites reduce drug-related crimes in public housing. These funds were formerly available only through a separate application process at HUD, under the Drug Elimination Grants Program.
We're also helping sites collaborate with the Drug Enforcement Administration on its new Integrated Drug Enforcement Assistance - or IDEA - Program. Through IDEA, DEA will work closely with communities to provide a higher level of support for drug enforcement operations. DEA Demand Reduction staff also plan to work on-site with target communities, to develop a plan to keep drugs out of the community after enforcement operations conclude.
Another example of collaboration is our new Serious and Violent Offender Re-entry Initiative. We're working with the Departments of Education, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development to support state and local efforts to better supervise and improve services for serious offenders returning to communities after incarceration. These returning offenders are likely to be the single biggest problem for law enforcement, driving up the crime rate in the neighborhoods to which they return. It would not surprise you, I'm sure, to know that these neighborhoods tend to be in Weed & Seed communities. By entering into an active collaboration to deal with this population, we firmly believe you can have a significant impact on your overall crime rate.
Our intention is to make communities safer, by turning ex-offenders into productive citizens rather than repeat offenders - through not only education, job training and life-skills training, but also through electronic monitoring, drug testing, and consistent intervention to require law-abiding behavior. And we're working to help Weed and Seed sites develop reentry strategies and the partnerships needed to implement and sustain these efforts.
One critical - indeed, essential - partner in your Weed and Seed programs is your United States Attorney. His or her active involvement in and endorsement of your Weed and Seed operations are critical to the success of your efforts. And, in fact, our Executive Office for Weed and Seed will be monitoring sites to ensure they're partnering with their U.S. Attorney.
We're also encouraging U.S. Attorneys to work with their Weed and Seed sites as they develop and implement Project Safe Neighborhoods. Jim Lettca accurately described PSN as the major initiative - short of counterterrorism - of President Bush. Project Safe Neighborhoods targets gun violence in our communities. The objective is to link existing local programs that target gun crime and provide those programs with the additional tools necessary to be successful. We're providing significant funding to help communities move quickly to put gun-wielding criminals behind bars, and to send a message that your community will deal firmly with these offenders.
Project Safe Neighborhoods, with its specific concentration on reducing violent crime, is a natural tool to use on the weeding side of Weed and Seed. Bob Samuels will tell you how Weed and Seed funding can complement PSN's prosecutor funding, by funding gun task forces in Weed and Seed sites. So I encourage you to work with your U.S. Attorney to develop and implement PSN in your district.
I also encourage you to take advantage of citizen volunteers to enhance your law enforcement efforts. With FEMA and other federal agencies, DOJ is a partner in the Citizen Corps, which is part of the USA Freedom Corps, a new Administration initiative that President Bush announced in his State of the Union address this year.
The Citizen Corps is a network of volunteer organizations in individual communities that will marshal the skills and knowledge of the American people to help law enforcement respond to terrorism and other crimes. A few weeks ago, the Attorney General announced a new Citizen Corps initiative to encourage citizens to volunteer in their local law enforcement agencies.
The Volunteers in Police Services - or VIPS - program will work to increase the number of law enforcement volunteers, in order to free up law enforcement professionals to better perform their front-line duties. VIPS also will help law enforcement agencies identify ways to expand their use of citizen volunteers, enhance existing VIPS programs, or start new ones. I encourage you to make VIPS a part of your Weed & Seed strategy.
[We've set up a web site at www.policevolunteers.org to help citizens who want to volunteer with their local departments and to provide information to law enforcement agencies about this initiative.]
Another Citizen Corps initiative is to expand the number of Neighborhood Watch programs across the country and to incorporate terrorism prevention into this program's long-time mission of preventing neighborhood crime. Our goal is to double the number of Neighborhood Watch programs across the country over the next year. This, too, is a natural to enhance your community's Weed and Seed efforts.
We're also working to develop Operation TIPS - the Terrorism Information and Prevention System. TIPS will to give to millions of American truckers, letter carriers, train conductors, ship captains, utility employees, and others, whose routines allow them to be the "eyes and ears" of police, a formal way to report suspicious or potential terrorist activity. We hope to announce the launch of Operation TIPS sometime this August.
But sometimes the answers to better law enforcement coordination are right in your own backyard. I encourage you to start with existing efforts in your jurisdiction - such as drug or gang task forces - and make sure they're coordinating their efforts with the other activities in your Weed and Seed site.
Let me give you just one example of how successful this kind of collaboration can be. In 1998, the City of Philadelphia launched "Operation Sunrise" in its Weed and Seed target area. The goal was to dismantle and disrupt open air drug markets and restore community life to law-abiding citizens.
The operation involved several phases. First, law enforcement agencies conducted undercover surveillance and gathered information to use in building cases against drug dealers. Then, law enforcement officers went into the neighborhood to arrest drug sellers and buyers.
At the same time, the city sent Public Works and other employees to seal or demolish abandoned properties, clean up empty lots, and remove abandoned autos. And law enforcement began working with residents and civic organizations to build trust and establish partnerships to help residents take a more active role in protecting their own neighborhood.
Residents participated in marches to send the message that crime would not be tolerated in their community. They organized clean-ups to restore pride in their neighborhood. And they formed Neighborhood Watches to alert police to renewed criminal activity.
Since the inception of Operation Sunrise 5 years ago, almost 15,000 arrests have been made, 255,000 grams of drugs have been confiscated with a street value over $8.9 million, 402 illegal firearms have been removed from the streets, and 12,000 abandoned automobiles have been towed away.
But perhaps just as important is the perception of neighborhood residents. Today, residents in the Philadelphia site feel better about themselves and their community. They're taking a stand and fighting back against crime. And they have a cleaner and safer neighborhood as a result.
You'll hear more success stories like this tomorrow, when we present awards to five Weed and Seed sites in recognition of their outstanding efforts in law enforcement coordination. Through their example, and the information presented at this workshop, I hope you'll learn more about ways you can increase law enforcement coordination in your own jurisdictions.
Remember, none of us can do this alone. It's only through combining our efforts that we'll reduce crime in our communities, save lives, and keep the peace. Thank you for your commitment to these efforts, to your communities, and to the goals of Weed and Seed. And thank you for the work you are doing every day to protect your fellow citizens.