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Remarks of Mary Lou Leary, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs

2010 CCDO Weed and Seed Strategy Implementation Workshop
February 25, 2010
Baltimore, MD

       Thank you, Dennis.

       I'm happy to be here this morning.

       I'd like to thank Dennis and his great CCDO staff for all their hard work organizing this workshop.

       I'm also pleased that Congresswoman Donna Edwards, U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein, and Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld have joined us today.

       Their presence shows their commitment to fostering partnerships that address community needs and, ultimately, to making neighborhoods safer - and better - places.

       We also are fortunate to have Eric Holder as Attorney General. His commitment to place-based programs that respond to neighborhood needs goes back to his days as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. Unfortunately, the Attorney General wasn't able to join us today; however, I'm pleased that he was able to tape a video message for us.

       We'll play the message now.

       We are indeed fortunate to have the Attorney General's support in our efforts.

       And his support will continue to be crucial as we move forward.

       I realize that some of you may be hearing this news for the first time; however, I must take this opportunity to tell you about a proposed change for Fiscal Year 2011.

       One of the many strengths of the Weed and seed strategy is that it has evolved over time to meet the needs of neighborhoods. Today, we unfortunately face difficult budget choices and have to prioritize our funding requests as we work to reduce the country's budget deficit. This is why, as part of the President's budget request for Fiscal Year 2011, we are recommending that the Weed and Seed strategy evolve yet again.

       Building on the success of the Weed and Seed strategy, CCDO would oversee the new $40 million Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation program. Our goal with this new program is to make a strong program even stronger by expanding opportunities for collaboration and increasing the use of evidence-based strategies, while continuing to focus on neighborhoods that suffer from high levels of crime.

       I realize that you may have some questions about this proposed change, and I can answer some of your questions now, and we'll be able to tell you more as this proposal moves through Congress.

       One of the most important things to remember about this proposed change is that we will still be focusing on neighborhood-centered approaches to public safety, as we do now with the Weed and Seed strategy.

       This new program will include a focus on evidence-based approaches to ensure the funding of programs that have been proven to work in the field.

       At the same time, this new program will offer increased flexibility to support expanded collaboration with federal, state, local, and tribal partners. CCDO will administer this new program, and Dennis and his staff will continue to work with you and other partners to respond to your local needs.

       This focus on evidence-based programs is a Department priority. We at OJP are working to expand our knowledge about evidence-based programs so we know, and can share with you, the information about what works in communities, what works for police departments, what works in juvenile justice, and in all the other areas of criminal justice that OJP supports.

       This means that we want to build on what we've learned from the Weed and Seed strategy, as well as from related efforts that we have funded.

       For example, our National Institute of Justice found that the Chicago CeaseFire program, which - like Weed and Seed sites - relies on community mobilization, as well as involvement of former offenders and gang members, helped to reduce shootings up to 28 percent in some sites.

       Research also has shown that another community-based program pioneered in High Point, North Carolina, that we're calling the Drug Market Intervention Initiative, can help reduce violent crime. In High Point, this effort reduced violent crime in the targeted area by 57 percent in four years.

       The gist of the Drug Market Intervention Initiative is that low-level drug dealers are confronted by law enforcement officers, who tell them: "We know what you're up to. You can choose to straighten up, and if you do, we've got resources to help you - mentoring, counseling, job training. Or you can continue down the current path, in which case we've got enough evidence to prosecute you, which could result in a long prison sentence." One of the strengths of this program is that it empowers community members to articulate norms of behavior - in effect, allowing residents to tell offenders that crime is not acceptable in their neighborhoods.

       We're now providing training on this approach to other locations throughout the country. We think it has great potential, because it isn't just about locking people away, but about breaking the cycle of drugs and crime and giving people, especially young people, a chance to remedy their mistakes.

       We are working to bring together our knowledge about successful Weed and Seed strategies, as well as Chicago CeaseFire, the High Point program, and many others, in what we are calling the Evidence Integration Initiative. As part of this initiative, we are working to establish common expectations and definitions for credible evidence across OJP programs. We also are:

  • Determining how we can generate more useful evidence from the programs we fund. Expanding efforts to launch randomized field experiments.
  • Establishing Evidence Integration Teams within OJP. These teams will synthesize evidence on specific justice topics and develop principles for practice that can be shared with you and others in the field.
  • And developing a Web site to focus on evidence-based programs that we are calling the Crime Solutions Resource Center. In addition, you and others will be able to contact a diagnostic center - or "help desk" - to learn more about these programs and how you can use them.

       In the almost 20 years since the first three Weed and Seed sites were created, criminal justice research and new technology have helped us find new ways to combat crime.

       While each community is unique, research has shown that there are common issues that neighborhoods across the country are trying to resolve-whether it's open air drug markets, violent crime, gangs, or reentry issues. And this means that we can use a common, proven approach to address these critical issues.

       I'm sure that you will have questions about the President's 2011 budget and the Evidence Integration Initiative. We want to hear from you, and we want to continue to work with you. We will do our best to keep you informed as we have more information about this new program.

       In closing, I'd like join the Attorney General in thanking you for everything you do in your communities and I look forward to continuing to work with you.

       Thank you.

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