Weed & Seed In-Sites
Produced by the Community Capacity Development Office
Welcome to the summer 2005 edition of In-Sites, where CCDO gives you quick and easy access to important information from the field. This issue includes stories about the success of community prosecution in Dallas, using a Cherokee marbles game to teach about methamphetamine, serving warrants to gang members to keep them out of neighborhoods, and more.
Table of Contents
Letter From the Director
I hope that you are planning to join us at CCDO's national conference in Los Angeles on August 23–25, 2005. The conference will feature great guest speakers, opportunities to learn and share, and new partnership announcements. Nothing compares with face-to-face interaction, networking, and simple camaraderie, and it all leads to better ideas for better communities.
Weed and Seed continues to be CCDO's flagship strategy and serves as our foundation. However, there is more to our office and we continue to reorganize and improve on our ways of assisting communities. Today, we enjoy solid partnerships with (1) many U.S. Attorneys' Offices, where we work on the public housing safety initiative; (2) the Internal Revenue Service, where we help people understand and use the earned income tax credit; and (3) the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, where we publicize and help train people in financial literacy programs. But those partnerships are just the beginning of many to come. In the future, look for partnerships with other federal agencies that will pair offender reentry with community volunteerism and expand asset-building initiatives within our Weed and Seed network.
We continue to strive for better collaboration with Indian tribes. Most communities take for granted the legal infrastructure that makes economic development possible. Unfortunately, some Indian tribes have been unable to build such networks, and their absence impedes economic development opportunities. This fall, we intend to launch a pilot initiative to assist Indian tribes in developing that necessary legal infrastructure to encourage the development of communities' quality of life to foster economic growth. The initiative reflects on CCDO's mission to build local capacity to solve local issues and to be inclusive of all Americans.
Your feedback is critical to our continued development and ability to serve you better. I listened to your recommendations on our Web site, and we have been working to make the Web site a place for you to want to go to often to find valuable information. Look for our new Web site at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ccdo soon.
We continue to engage our advisory committee regarding their ideas on how to strengthen local community capacity. CCDO is providing staff support for the subcommittees working on the first three initiatives: peer-to-peer mentoring, development of local leadership, and communication strategies.
I'd like to extend a formal welcome to our new Assistant Attorney General here at OJP, Regina Schofield. Before her appointment as Assistant Attorney General, Ms. Schofield was Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and White House Liaison at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. We are very excited to work with her and show her all the great successes of Weed and Seed. A sincere thank you goes to Tracy Henke for guiding us through the transition period.
Enjoy your summer. I look forward to seeing you in the City of Angels.
Letter From the U.S. Attorney
Having had the honor of serving as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana for the past 4 years, I have participated on a very personal level in—and have seen the many benefits of—both Project Safe Neighborhoods and the Weed and Seed initiative in our communities.
As the top domestic enforcement initiative of the Bush Administration and the U.S. Department of Justice, Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) prioritizes federally led law enforcement efforts to significantly reduce violent gun crime in our communities. PSN continues to have a profound effect on our law enforcement strategies, methods, and goals in the Eastern District of Louisiana. As a result of increased drug use, poverty, poor education, and other factors, the city of New Orleans and its environs have for many years suffered sometimes staggering violent crime and homicide statistics.
Partnerships are the cornerstone of PSN. They are the most significant facet of PSN and one that has driven both our overall strategy and me personally. As recognized by the police superintendent of New Orleans and other federal, state, and local agencies (e.g., Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office), our office and these agencies operate in partnerships that are unprecedented in their depth, scope, and effectiveness. Moreover, I am proud that the U.S. Attorney's Office in this district has been one of the driving forces in forging, maintaining, and further enhancing these remarkable partnerships.
The results have been encouraging. While homicides among young drug dealers remain high and continue to command our attention, federal prosecutions of dangerous, gun-wielding criminals, drug dealers, convicted felons, and others who illegally possess firearms is on the increase, just as violent crime as a whole has decreased. Moreover, through PSN's numerous funding mechanisms, federal monetary grants to our partner agencies on the state and local levels have helped fund and thus foster new, more effective law enforcement antiviolent crime task forces and investigative anticrime strategies designed to address the persistent violent crime problem.
In Operation Scarecrow, which consists of both aggressive enforcement and a public awareness campaign, those persons not permitted under law to purchase firearms have been increasingly identified, investigated, arrested, and prosecuted, as have the straw purchasers who attempt to acquire firearms for them.
Most recently, with the full partnership of the New Orleans Police Department, bolstered by a strong ATF, FBI, and DEA presence, we have begun to effectively coordinate the targeting of a "hot zone" in the city of New Orleans, encompassing more than 7 square miles, in which more than 50 percent of the city's homicides have been committed in recent times. According to the plan, federal and local task force agents and officers design targeted strategies for apprehending known drug traffickers and violent offenders, as well as anyone involved and participating in violent or firearms-related crimes. In fact, in a recent funding initiative, $600,000 of the U.S. Attorney's Office's discretionary funds were channeled to finance both enforcement and outreach efforts focused on public housing developments located in this high-crime zone.
A pilot program from which we have derived both success and encouragement is our partnership with the residents of the B.W. Cooper Housing Development in inner-city New Orleans. During the past year, members of my staff, together with dedicated New Orleans police officers and ATF special agents, have worked closely with the Resident Management Council and community members to help improve their quality of living. Initially sponsored through a community engagement by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) staff in the U.S. Department of Justice, we initially sought—and continue to seek—input from the residents about ways to improve quality of life in the housing development.
Our initial successes were born from cooperative efforts improving interior and exterior lighting, removing abandoned vehicles, and eradicating gang-related graffiti throughout the development. In fact, we were most successful in enlisting the assistance of the Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff's Office to replace a mural on a local tavern bearing the image of a deceased drug dealer. At our request, the sheriff's office sent representatives from their prisoner's art group to the development and replaced it with a beautiful mural depicting a classic New Orleans "second line" scene of marching jazz musicians.
We are presently establishing a Boy Scouts' Explorers Group. In addition, we have recently partnered with a local nonprofit organization to both replenish and rebuild existing playgrounds and to design and build new playgrounds in the housing development. We have also begun working with other housing developments in our city to reestablish ATF's gun hotline, which citizens can use to report illegal gun trafficking or any conspicuous stockpiling or use of firearms.
Our well-established Weed and Seed initiative continues to anchor a critical part of our enforcement and outreach. Weed and Seed has successfully operated in the Eastern District of Louisiana since 1995. We currently have six active, viable Weed and Seed sites, five of which are within the urban area of greater New Orleans; an additional two sites are in the application stages. In fact, our Weed and Seed initiative is presently in a critical transition phase. In an effort to dramatically increase the percentage of Weed and Seed dollars that reach citizens and reduce wasteful and duplicative administrative costs, the program will obtain a new fiscal agent, the New Orleans Police Foundation.
As the U.S. Attorney, a career prosecutor, and an active participant in our communities through PSN and Weed and Seed, I have become a true believer in such critical, powerful, and effective priorities and initiatives. I urge you—as you participate in the CCDO National Conference in Los Angeles—to take full advantage of the priorities, strategies, methods, and assets that both Weed and Seed and PSN offer with the singular goal of saving lives and increasing the quality of life of our citizens.Jim Letten
Eastern District of Louisiana
Asset Forfeiture Takes a Front Seat in Philly
If drug dealers threaten a neighborhood in North Philadelphia, they might end up without any place to live and out of business fast.
With the area's dilapidated and abandoned houses making it easier for drug dealers to make their living, the district attorney's (D.A.'s) office decided to put a new twist on an old idea. Asset forfeiture is often used to take cars, guns, or money away from criminals, but real property asset forfeiture had only been used when the property had value. Now, in the two Weed and Seed sites in this area, the D.A.'s office is using asset forfeiture of real property (e.g., homes, businesses, bars) as a new tool to aid law enforcement. The idea has gained momentum over the past few years, but the approach is still new and is not being implemented in any of the counties surrounding Philadelphia, according to Scott Sigman, an assistant D.A. with the Special Narcotics Prosecution Unit.
Drug dealers have been using most of the homes seized in the Weed and Seed areas as havens and places of business. Sigman believes asset forfeiture of real property should be used in every drug case involving a search warrant of a house or business, especially houses that have to be demolished at the expense of the city and have no real economic value.
"Asset forfeiture of real property fits the Weed and Seed model," Sigman explained. If drug dealers are just arrested, then that's only weeding, but if you add the asset forfeiture component, it provides the time needed to implement the seeding side, he said. "Arrest alone will not solve the problem."
The approach works in this area because of the large number of dilapidated and/or abandoned houses used in drug dealing, very strict punishments for drug dealers, and the support of the D.A.'s office. Sigman, who has worked as a Weed and Seed prosecutor since 1998, attempts to litigate forfeiture against five properties per site every month. In a nod to the success of the initiative, two asset forfeiture assistant D.A.s—one for each site—joined the office this year.
A common scenario that illustrates how the community works with law enforcement begins with residents providing tips to the police regarding drug dealers inside properties. The police then investigate the tips, conduct surveillances, make undercover purchases and/or use confidential informants to make purchases, and then obtain a search and seizure warrant. The information is then sent to the D.A., who charges the defendant.
In most cases that Sigman encounters, a defendant gets arrested but is out on bail before the police even finish processing the arrest paperwork. That defendant usually goes right back to selling drugs in the same area or someone else is sent in to replace the dealer who was arrested if the defendant cannot make bail. But by using asset forfeiture, the house or business that was connected to the drug selling is sealed by county detectives, so the drug dealer must find a new home and a new location to run the drugs. If the drug dealer enters the property, he or she will be arrested for criminal trespass.
In some cases, forfeited properties are donated back to the community for use as community centers, gardens, and Safe Havens. In other cases, properties are sold at auction to prescreened buyers who have never been straw purchasers for drug dealers and have no drug convictions.
On a block-by-block basis, the reaction from the community has been good, according to Sigman. Although in some cases the drug dealing may have moved just one block over, one block has been reclaimed. With effective seeding and community support, the dealers will never return. But there remains a lot of work to be done.
"Drugs and drug dealing are so rampant in our Weed and Seed area, many people don't see the small growing impact," Sigman said.
Sigman believes he has made a dent in the dealers' distribution network and that has hurt street dealers. The asset forfeiture initiative also has brought about a better relationship between the D.A.'s office and the Weed and Seed sites, he said.
For further information, contact:
From Abandoned Lots to Guns, Community Prosecution Takes Care of It All
In Dallas, the city attorneys are doing their jobs a little differently these days.
The city attorney's office reorganized 2 years ago, incorporating community prosecution efforts to better fight low-level crime and solve community-based problems. The desire to engage residents and coordinate city services led the office to the Weed and Seed site for guidance. Using some Weed and Seed strategies, the office formed the Community Advocacy Division (CAD), which has already expanded, formed partnerships, and enlisted the trust of the community. As part of its community prosecution efforts, CAD takes an atypical approach to prosecution, using code violations and city ordinances to address weedy lots and abandoned shopping carts and speeches to address gun crime.
"When I first started I would laugh at a high weeds ticket," said Roxann Pais, now Dallas's chief community prosecutor. "But now I think vacant structure, kids have to walk by it, there might be prostitution or drugs . . . . It's a better understanding of the street and that makes us better prosecutors."
Shopping carts were something that residents viewed as a real nuisance and were difficult to deal with before the advent of CAD. Because the office has the legislative authority to write city ordinances, shopping carts are no longer a neighborhood eyesore.
This new legal approach also saves the city money because the city does not have to use other resources to address these kinds of issues. In the past, for example, police would have to commit personnel and time to go undercover to show that a dilapidated house was being used as a place to buy and sell drugs. CAD uses the law and doesn't have to deal with red tape. It simply shuts buildings down for code violations; in fact, full-time code enforcement officers work with community prosecutors.
"We use different tools," Pais explained. "We can make things happen faster."
Pais believes that community prosecution offices function very much like legal think tanks. According to Pais, communities should consider lobbying for a community prosecution office because residents and police officers may have great ideas but often run into legal obstacles. Also, citizens don't have the right tools, and police officers have to deal with bureaucracy. Community prosecutors, however, have the tools, power, and access to change things.
Pais also is proud of the significant inroads community prosecutors have already made in combating gun crime. In partnership with the U.S. Attorney's Office, city attorney's office, and Project Safe Neighborhoods (http://www.projectsafeneighborhoods.gov/) (a program that networks local programs that target gun crime), Pais makes a monthly presentation to parolees and probationers about the consequences of committing a gun crime. Since the program began 18 months ago, gun crimes among adult parolees and probationers have dropped by 34 percent.
In addition to statistical successes, there have been more personal ones as well. One client was so grateful to the community prosecutors that she wrote poems to them, the judge, and social workers. In one poem, she writes that she has changed her ways and is trying to quit drinking alcohol: "I won't say I made it, I won't tell that lie, but because of you all, I damn sure will try!"
In the past 10 years, community prosecution has grown significantly nationwide. Pais and city attorney Madeleine Johnson turned their idea of community prosecution into a model program. The office now has eight attorneys and recently opened Dallas' first community court. The court, located inside a community center, handles Class C misdemeanors on a fast track, scheduling court dates within a week of ticketing and usually meting out community service as punishment. Preliminary results appear promising.
Pais credits Weed and Seed for a large part of her office's success. Weed and Seed places great importance on community support and involvement, which have been integral to CAD's development. Although the office, situated in the South Dallas Weed and Seed area, took advantage of Weed and Seed's built-in partnerships and community groundwork, it is supported by other federal grants and so did not take any funding away from Weed and Seed projects.
For further information, contact:
Program To Address Violent Crime Described
Examining Effective Intelligence
Responding to School Bomb Threats
Get the 411 on 311
Analyzing and Interpreting Vehicle Stop Data
COPS Releases Drugs and Crime CD-ROM
East Aurora Successfully Targets Gangs
In 2004, the number of gang-related shootings in the East Aurora Weed and Seed area increased dramatically. The shooting victims' families joined politicians, law enforcement officials, and the community as a whole to demand effective measures to prevent this violence. Law enforcement took the initial lead to "weed" out the problem so that other "seeding" responses could take place.
In March 2005, the Aurora Police Department and the Kane County Sheriff's Office entered into an informal cooperative agreement to implement the Gang Apprehension and Suppression Project. The project's goal is to inform anyone who participates in street gang activity that the community has zero tolerance for violence, zero tolerance for narcotics, and zero tolerance for any behavior that even remotely suggests gang influence.
As part of the project, teams of officers from the police department and the sheriff's office go to the known addresses of gang members who are wanted on warrants and attempt to serve them. Officers ride together so that jurisdictional boundaries cannot hinder the gang enforcement initiative; this approach also enhances cooperation and communication between the agencies. Many gang members moved outside Aurora to evade the project. Even when they were not able to serve the warrants, officers believed they had communicated the "zero tolerance" message.
The collaborative efforts resulted in 47 warrants served, 46 traffic stops, 25 traffic citations, and 9 felony and 5 misdemeanor arrests. In addition to surveillance of gang members' houses, and the arrest of a known Latin King gang member, Weed and Seed officers completed two neighborhood "knock and talks."
Since the project began, shootings have dropped 60 percent. Community and neighborhood groups are reacting very positively and say they are pleased with the operation. The Kane County Sheriff's Office and the Aurora Police Department plan to continue their collaborative efforts through September 2005, with help from the U.S. Marshal's Service and the Kane County Major Crime Task Force, to conduct a sweep of additional warrants for serious violent offenses in the Weed and Seed area.
The entire project cost $160,000; of that amount, $40,000 was funded by Weed and Seed and $120,000 was funded by the Aurora Police Department and the Kane County Sheriff's Office. When the project ends, it will be evaluated by the Weed and Seed Law Enforcement Subcommittee to determine whether it should continue or whether a new weeding project for the area should begin.
As another part of the Gang Apprehension and Suppression Project, Aurora will hold the Summer Anti-Violence Event (S.A.V.E.)—a gang awareness program. A panel will include representatives from the clergy, law enforcement, state government, a community group, and the Kane County State's Attorney's Office. The Aurora Police Department's Special Gang Unit will present a slideshow of gang signs, clothing, graffiti, colors, and other gang indicators so that parents, youth, grandparents, and other residents can be aware of possible gang activity in their neighborhoods and homes.
For further information, contact:
Expanded Community Policing Revitalizes Neighborhood
The Hill neighborhood of New Haven has become a much safer place to live thanks to Weed and Seed and an expanded community policing program.
The city of New Haven has had community policing in place for more than a decade. Community residents and police have regular planning meetings. Neighborhood residents meet with city officials, police, and the Weed and Seed Coordinator on a monthly basis to address concerns related to crime, blight, housing, neighborhood restoration, and illegal dumping, among others.
Through partnerships among law enforcement officials, social service agencies, and community leaders, New Haven has expanded in-kind services and improved the quality of life in the Hill neighborhood. The project, which began in April 2004, receives strong support from the mayor's office, U.S. Attorney's Office, police chief, assistant chief, and local officials.
The project's primary "weeding" goals are to investigate and prosecute drug traffickers, prevent a resurgence of gang activity, and crack down on absentee landlords. Weed and Seed funds have been used to increase foot and auto patrols in the Hill neighborhood, resulting in an increase of arrests and prosecutions and a significant decrease in crime.
The first target areas were Frank and Lines Streets. The area's high rates of crime and poverty and low levels of pride and ownership contributed to a sense of despair and urgency that spurred community residents, leaders, and local officials to take action.
One of the largest contributing factors to the ongoing criminal issues that plague the neighborhood was the high number of absentee landlords. Weed and Seed staff began to contact landlords regarding drug-related issues and illegal activities taking place on their properties. Landlords, who were held responsible for compliance with city ordinances, began to file standing orders of complaint with the New Haven Police Department. These orders authorized the police to enter private property without a warrant and arrest anyone committing illegal acts there. The police department also began to conduct undercover operations in the area.
Another example of everyone pulling together was when the community got rid of something unsightly yet seemingly innocent: sneakers. Drug traffickers would mark their territories with sneakers hanging from electrical wires. The district manager partnered with traffic and parking, landlords, and residents to cut down sneakers, showing drug traffickers that this neighborhood was taking its streets back.
Because New Haven has expanded police patrols in the Hill neighborhood, residents are more comfortable walking the streets, children can actually come out and play, and merchants feel safer opening their stores every morning. Safer streets have made residents more trusting of the police and more willing to work closely with them. And with more police officers on the streets, residents have joined the effort of taking back their streets without fear of retaliation. The larger police presence has allowed Weed and Seed staff to handle a higher volume of calls and attend to additional quality-of-life issues, which makes the community a safer place to live, work, and worship.
The Hill site will soon be embarking on its second year of activities to support its 5-year strategy. The designated target area encompasses two policing districts and two neighborhoods, Hill North and Hill South. Future priority strategies identified by the Hill community are as follows: increased number of police walking beats; improved communication among and involvement of police, residents, and youth; reduction of domestic violence, loitering, illegal dumping, and illegal sales of tobacco and alcohol to minors; traffic control; community and economic development; and affordable housing.
Although community policing through problem solving is found throughout New Haven, what is unique about the Weed and Seed neighborhood revitalization project is the direct collaboration and involvement of social service agencies, residents, and community leaders and the close relationship between residents and police officers. Residents have become the eyes of the police department, and, at the same time, they have become educated about their rights and resources.
For further information, contact:
Interactions Between Police and the Public Examined
OVC Launches Crimevictims.gov
Adapting Successful Responses to Problem-Oriented Policing
Involving Faith-Based and Community Organizations
Bobby Green and Travis Curd, both 16 years old, participate in crime prevention and community development programs at the Christamore House, a faith-based community organization in Indianapolis, IN, and a partner in the Westside Weed and Seed site. On September 17, 2004, the teens came upon a sheriff's deputy being stabbed with a kitchen knife by her estranged husband. As 10 other people stood by, Bobby and Travis intervened peacefully and urged the man not to kill his wife. Once confronted, the attacker stopped and walked into a nearby alley, still carrying the knife, where police apprehended him. Although the sheriff's deputy suffered severe cuts to her hands, arms, and face (requiring 98 stitches on her face alone), she is alive today because of two young men who took the Christamore House mission to heart and put it into action in their community.
Often, a faith-based or community organization can help change people's lives and motivate them to rise to new levels of caring for their neighbors. In Newark, NJ, a community development organization with faith-based roots coordinates a community's strategy for combating and preventing crime. In Corpus Christi, TX, a pastor has created a Safe Haven for neighborhood residents, mostly children. The thread binding these organizations is that each is an important element in the successful Weed and Seed strategy. Working in collaboration with federal, state, and local criminal justice agencies, grassroots community organizations—both faith-based and secular—have been essential in gaining and maintaining public trust, decreasing crime, and fostering neighborhood development. The success of Weed and Seed strategies is predicated on leveraging the experience and resources of grassroots community groups like the Christamore House in Indianapolis, Community Agencies Corporation of New Jersey in Newark, and God's Gym in Corpus Christi.
Many faith-based and other community leaders want to learn more about the President's Faith-Based and Community Initiative and how it can help them with the work they do every day. The initiative aims to help people in need by supporting the work of faith-based and other community groups to solve the nation's social problems. Because the President believes that government can and should work in partnership with these grassroots organizations, a prime initiative priority is to identify and eradicate the institutional barriers that prevent these organizations from competing for federal grants.
The initiative is not a grant program; neither the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives nor the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Task Force for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives awards grants. All government grants are awarded through existing federal grant program offices. The role of the task force is to help ensure equal access to federal grant opportunities. DOJ has therefore streamlined its grant program solicitations so that they are shorter and easier to read. Through task force efforts, many criminal justice strategies now anticipate a role for qualified faith-based and other community organizations. The task force has also reached out to these organizations to provide them with technical assistance regarding funding opportunities through DOJ or through the state agencies that administer DOJ formula or block grant funds.
A signature accomplishment of the task force is the January 2004 promulgation of a regulation entitled "Participation in Justice Department Programs by Religious Organizations; Providing for Equal Treatment of all Justice Department Program Participants." It applies to all DOJ employees, vendors, grantees (including state and local governmental agencies), and subgrantees. As applied to the administration of Weed and Seed funds, this regulation—
A copy and summary of the regulation is available on the task force Web site at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/fbci.
For further information, contact:
Task Force for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives
When Spring Break Is More Than a Break
No kids complaining of boredom here.
For one week in April, during the public schools' spring break, a Weed and Seed camp was the place where everyone played basketball, everyone read books, and everyone had a good time.
This year, the Eighth Annual City of Atlanta Weed and Seed T.E.A.M.-building camp partnered for the first time with the Atlanta Police Department's Third Annual "Shoot Hoops, Aim High" basketball camp. T.E.A.M (Together Everyone Achieves More) and its partners pooled their resources to incorporate athletic activities, reading sessions, and educational field trips into a spring break program. The program also taught character development and youth leadership skills.
The children who live in three local Weed and Seed sites in the Mechanicsville and Pittsburgh neighborhoods are seeing their communities go through the initial stages of redevelopment, and Weed and Seed and its partners wanted to ease the children's anxieties about this. In the Mechanicsville community, the Housing Authority received a HOPE VI grant to revitalize the McDaniel Glenn Housing project. In the adjacent community of Pittsburgh, the Civic League Apartments were purchased to be rebuilt into contemporary-styled housing.
The camp was held in a designated Safe Haven, the Dunbar Recreation Center, which houses nonprofit agencies, faith-based organizations, and government agencies whose service delivery focuses on child development, career training, health and wellness, and economic development. The Safe Haven has a cyber lab sponsored by the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency that offers classes on basic computer competency.
Every day during the school year between 3 and 4:30 p.m., athletic activities at the recreation center stop, and representatives from the Department of Parks and Recreation and Cultural Affairs and the Police Athletic League help children with homework. During the 1-week camp, the Mayor's Office of Weed and Seed and the Atlanta-Fulton County Library system introduced D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read) time for 30 minutes and offered selections from the Atlanta Public Schools' suggested reading list.
Special activities also proved to be fun and educational. Younger children explored the wilderness setting at the Pine Mountain Wild Animal Safari Park, and older children traveled to Birmingham, AL, to hear firsthand accounts of the lives of African Americans during the civil rights movement. In addition, the Atlanta Hawks surprised campers by inviting them to tour Philips Arena and presenting each child with a collection of basketball trading cards and folders.
The camp inspired many people from many organizations to give of their time. Volunteers came from the Atlanta Police Department, Mayor's Office of Weed and Seed, DEA, mass transit police, Police Athletic League, Atlanta Fire and Rescue Department, Fulton County Juvenile Court, Department of Parks and Recreation and Cultural Affairs, Mechanicsville Civic Association, Pittsburgh Community Improvement Association, Vine City Civic Association, and the Atlanta-Fulton library system.
The week of activities confirmed for all of those involved that healthy child development is enhanced by relationships developed beyond family. The camp was an innovative approach to filling in the gap between formal education and home training.
"This is another level of growth for the City of Atlanta's Weed and Seed, and each year it becomes a learning experience for all of us," said Karen Rogers, Director of Weed and Seed.
One of many lessons learned from this joint venture was how important advance planning is and how pooling resources can transform youth service delivery from myriad distinct programs that have short-term effects to a collaborative project that brings about a long-term comprehensive outcome. Atlanta's Weed and Seed is viewing the success of the camp as merely a catalyst to plan future joint crime prevention projects.
For further information, contact:
School Program Helps Kids Stay Out of Prison
Nancy Jahns felt like she was accomplishing good things, but that it was too little—and a little too late.
Jahns, a corrections officer in Spokane, WA, teaches a cognitive behavioral programming course that has had good results, but she kept feeling that something more could be done. Inmates told her they wished they had had the program before they got into trouble, and so the inspiration hit for refining the program for the classroom.
"It just made common sense," Jahns said. She reasoned that if the curriculum used in prisons was reducing recidivism, a similar curriculum for schools could reduce truancy and other problems and ultimately help prevent youth from entering the corrections system.
The theory proved correct. As part of a Weed and Seed strategy, the Washington State Department of Corrections designed and launched the Spokane Youth for Social Responsibility (SYSR) project in 2001 in partnership with the Spokane Sheriff's Community Oriented Policing Effort, Spokane schools, and Edgecliff Community of Spokane. SYSR is an integrated approach to intervention that addresses pressing issues in the school environment such as truancy, drugs, and violence when they first arise.
SYSR's main component is the social responsibility training (SRT) curriculum—now used in almost every school in Spokane—which is designed to reduce risk factors and enhance social, moral, and behavioral reasoning. SRT is based on moral recognition therapy, a leading corrections program. Its exercises are designed to alter how students think and how they make judgments and decisions about right and wrong and to promote actions and behaviors focused on changing negative relationships.
The project was easy to implement and cost effective, Jahns said. SYSR combined existing corrections and educational staff and other resources at startup and used $9,800 in Weed and Seed grant funds to deliver SRT in classrooms.
Just as moral recognition therapy has shown success over the years (some studies have shown overall recidivism is cut by 30–60 percent during the 5 years following treatment and by 24–30 percent over 6–10 years), so too has SRT demonstrated remarkable changes in some of Spokane's most challenging schools.
In its pilot year, SRT was offered in two high schools. Ferris High experienced a reduction in short-term suspensions, and Spokane Valley Alternative High, notorious for violence and unruly student behavior, had even more dramatic results. It had previously reported two to three fights and regular law enforcement contacts weekly, with only five students completing full credits the entire year. With SRT as a base program, there were no fights and only two nonschool-related arrests. In addition, 59 students completed full credits that year.
There have been "amazing changes" in some students in a short time, according to Carole Meyer, the principal at Havermill High School. The data collected by the school shows significant gains in grade point averages (including one student who went from a 0.5 to a 3.1 grade point average), reduced truancy, and reduced referrals to the principal's office. And people are constantly calling Meyer about the program.
With SRT, "kids take responsibility for their own lives," Meyer said. "We haven't found anything to match this program in quality."
SYSR also offers the SRT classes to the Spokane Juvenile Truancy Court as an alternative to detention for truant students, helping these high-risk youth to reestablish ties to school. Other pilot programs are now beginning, including truancy alternative, parent class, and new detention programs. The Corrections Learning Network, which produces programs for correctional television, is planning a video series to help incarcerated parents learn how to build and maintain relationships with their children. Jahns suggested that other Weed and Seed sites could arrange trainings with their Corrections Learning Network sites.
SYSR also is expanding to Indian country. Jahns noted that special training is available to facilitators, and the curriculum is easy to adapt to include cultural issues.
Jahns said SYSR's success shows that corrections can take a supportive role in future community efforts to help initiate preventative programs. She believes the steps to take in the future have to be a little bigger than they have been in the past.
"We've been nurturing," she said. "This population needs more."
For further information, contact:
ResourcesCOPS Releases School Safety CD–ROM
The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), along with other U.S. Department of Justice agencies, has produced a CD–ROM with more than 30 links and documents related to youth violence, gangs, bullying, and drugs for local policymakers, school administrators, parents, and students. To obtain copies, call the COPS Office Response Center at 800–421–6770.
One Property Cleanup, One Big Impact
Many neighborhoods struggle with crime and graffiti. One neighborhood in Topeka, KS, is taking a stand against criminal activity and taking back its community.
Members of the Topeka Weed and Seed community of Chesney Park decided that they were tired of the crime and eyesores in their neighborhood. So the residents of Clay and Buchanan Streets, with the help of Weed and Seed, Safe Streets, and the Topeka Police Department, formed a neighborhood watch group. Clay/Buchanan Neighborhood Watch held its first meeting to discuss the community's biggest concerns and came to a consensus on a select few issues to tackle.
One problem with a rental property stood out among all of the rest. The house seemed to be involved in some suspicious activity and had broken windows in the front. A little structure in the side yard looked as if it had once been a child's playhouse, but over time the playhouse became covered in gang graffiti and was reported to house a "one-stop drug shop" in the summer months.
Because it was spring, the residents took action immediately to stop the problem before the active summer months. First, the group notified the police department's gang intelligence officer. Then, the group wrote letters to the landlord informing him that this property was a safety concern. A city department that enforces violations of general nuisances (e.g., trash in yards, graffiti, uncut grass, inoperative vehicles) was planning to paint over all of the gang graffiti. Three and a half weeks later the landlord had the playhouse torn down and removed from the yard.
The cleanup did not require funding. It was orchestrated simply by a group of concerned citizens who took the initiative to contact city offices and get something done. The residents continue to meet monthly and are keeping their eyes open for criminal activities so that they can notify the police and keep the neighborhood safe over the summer.
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Affordable Housing Group and Police Band Together
HomeSight, an affordable housing development corporation in southeast Seattle supported by the Community Safety Initiative (CSI), had always focused on increasing home ownership to stabilize poor, crime-ridden neighborhoods. But when gang members threatened a new resident in Columbia City, the organization realized it needed a new approach. It phoned the Seattle Police Department's Weed and Seed commander, and a unique partnership was born—one that would earn HomeSight and its police partners one of seven national MetLife Foundation Community-Police Partnership Awards in 2003.
The three major components of HomeSight's strategy were to more explicitly share information and resources with the police department, target its development efforts in high-crime areas and involve police in its planning, and build the capacity of business owners and residents to organize and address crime problems. HomeSight embraced its responsibility to improve public safety conditions and communicated and cooperated with the police department through Seattle's Weed and Seed. To create a stronghold in the neighborhood, HomeSight acquired several lots in Columbia City, and the police department complemented these efforts with increased patrols and enforcement on these blocks.
HomeSight began to use its primary funding stream, real estate development financing, to advance crime reduction efforts. The organization recognized that multimillion dollar projects could produce more than homeownership opportunities. Furthermore, the staff realized that they could reduce the time and cost of these projects by including the police in the planning stages. In 2001, HomeSight sought out a southeast Seattle location that was a notorious haven for crime and illegal dumping and purchased the lot for construction of the Noji Gardens project, a 75-unit residential development for first-time buyers.
While the community development corporation finalized the financing and predevelopment process, its police partners asked to use the site for SWAT team training. HomeSight agreed, and this arrangement provided many benefits. It strengthened organizational ties with the police department, increased police presence where it had been lacking, and, with police department backing of the project, helped HomeSight acquire demolition permits for the existing structure. Furthermore, the heightened police presence kept crime down during the 2 years of project construction, thereby minimizing construction and cleanup costs.
After the Noji Gardens project was finished, HomeSight helped the new homeowners establish a block watch, which is now managed by the Noji Gardens Community Organization. This group holds a National Night Out event and works directly with the police department to keep the subdivision crime free.
Over the years, the collaboration with CSI has helped the police department weather budget cuts despite increasing demand for police service. Police must often rely on the community to maintain the safety gains of past years. The partnership also has led to a unique arrangement with the police department. In 2003, HomeSight began negotiations with the department to receive monthly maps showing where crime occurs in southeast Seattle. By identifying neighborhoods with high incidents of crime in its target areas, HomeSight can determine where next to focus its development resources.
As Columbia City and Noji Gardens stabilized and became self-sufficient, HomeSight used the police maps to find that the highest incidence of drug-related activity was outside the nearby neighborhood of Rainier Beach. Staff outreach to the community discovered two established block watch groups that had joined to form the Rainier Othello Safety Association (ROSA). HomeSight is now working with ROSA, providing support and connections to the police as it did with Noji Gardens.
This continued partnership between the police department and HomeSight has taught both parties the benefits that come from combining law enforcement and community development strategies to revitalize and empower low-income and crime-ridden neighborhoods.
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Examining Public Housing Reform
Community Partnering and Volunteer Strategies
Concentrating on Reentry Yields Results
There is a lot of talk these days about recidivism and how communities must focus on working with returning offenders. Such issues are a top priority for CCDO, and in Fort Wayne, IN, the Weed and Seed site has decided to truly focus on reentry.
The Fort Wayne/Allen County Weed and Seed effort represents a unique and successful design. It has changed the traditional understanding of a Weed and Seed site and become a model for a "special emphasis" site; that is, a site that concentrates its efforts on one issue or population and applies the Weed and Seed approach to focus on crime reduction in a specific high-crime area, use existing resources, and involve community residents and decisionmakers.
For Fort Wayne members, that meant examining their most serious crime problem and discovering that it originates from offenders who return to the community from prison, jail, and other confinement facilities. So law enforcement and community service organizations spent a year designing a reentry program. Involving community service providers across a wide spectrum of service provision—including labor, health, and education—as well as key decisionmakers allowed Fort Wayne to fully address the reentry issue. Participants understood that they owned a part of the problem, and that they had the resources to solve it.
"The reason why we're so successful is because everyone has a piece of the pie," said Sheila Hudson, Executive Director of Allen County Community Corrections.
Hudson, who directs all supervision, monitoring, and intervention programs for returning offenders, freely admits she used to deal with offenders in a narrow way, but now she looks at the issue of reentry differently. She understands the returning offender's need for community support and involves many community service organizations to provide it.
"I've had one goal—to keep the public safe," she said. "But I could not do it alone, I had to branch out."
The Fort Wayne site focuses exclusively on offenders returning from prison to the southeast quadrant of the city, an area of approximately 50,000 people. It has for years been considered responsible for significant and sustained serious and violent crime in the city, a large percentage of which is committed by returning offenders.
The weeding portion of the program involves an array of control or law enforcement functions. It includes the police, judiciary, and local and state corrections systems (e.g., Allen County Community Correction Center, Indiana Department of Corrections, Allen County Superior Court, City of Fort Wayne Police Department). The control activities involve—
The support services, or seeding functions, involve providing transitional programs, remedial education, employment readiness and job development services, mental health and other health care services, substance abuse treatment, housing, and help in developing support systems that may involve family and/or faith-based and other neighborhood organizations.
Some of these services are provided by the existing human service systems in the community; most are provided at the Community Corrections Center, particularly following initial release. Having all the services in the center, Hudson explained, is more convenient and provides a safe environment for the employees where there is no stigma attached for the offenders or potential employers, as there might be with onsite meetings.
Already, Fort Wayne has seen a significant reduction in recidivism: the percentage of individuals who participated in the program for more than 2 years and were rearrested within 1 year of release was reduced from 45 percent to 22.5 percent. Another evaluation showed the financial benefit of the program. The evaluation estimated a savings to the community of nearly $2 million when comparing the number of crimes committed by participants in the program to the crimes the participants would have been expected to commit had they not been in the program. In addition, the target neighborhood experienced a 13.5-percent reduction in crime.
Initially the program was something of a hard sell politically, but once the statistics clearly showed the returning offenders' impact on crime rates, the police department was on board and others followed. Today, the program is recognized as a national model reentry effort by the Office of Justice Programs and has influenced the design and implementation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative. The Fort Wayne program also was recognized by the U.S. Attorney General and given a financial award to support its efforts. The Indiana Department of Corrections recognized it as a model for reentry services that the department intends to promote throughout the state.
In the future, CCDO envisions developing a limited number of other single-focus sites to address similar social problems that are common to many Weed and Seed sites (e.g., school truancy and dropouts, unemployment, inadequate housing, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, gang violence, economic underdevelopment). Fort Wayne would serve as a training and technical assistance provider to other Weed and Seed communities that want to replicate its innovative reentry strategy.
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A.S.T.A.R Is Born; Offenders Are Reborn
Regina Dixon got involved with drinking, using and selling drugs, and prostitution and soon got herself in prison. But then she realized that if she wanted a different life, she would have to act on it because no one would give it to her. She changed for herself, but most of all for her children and family.
Dixon recently completed the Adult Service/Training Administered for Re-Entry (A.S.T.A.R) program of Dayton, OH, a two-phased program for people who have been incarcerated but who want to redirect their lives.
"All I had to do was want to change," said Dixon, who is now employed.
A.S.T.A.R, which is strictly voluntary, started as an initiative of Dayton's Northwest Weed and Seed in November 2004. Phase I of the program, which begins after the program's outreach efforts in the corrections system and once ex-offenders have been released, deals with anger management, domestic violence, and employment issues (e.g., job etiquette; preparation of résumés, cover letters, and letters of application; mock interviews). The program has a clinical nurse specialist of psychology who talks to the ex-offenders about stress, anxiety, health, and wellness.
Phase II is similar to phase I except that in phase II, A.S.T.A.R program coordinators take participants on job interviews and help them prepare for an effective job search. Phase II also deals with the ex-offenders on a more personal level, allowing ex-offenders to interact more with the community.
A.S.T.A.R has an 80-percent job placement rate. Kevin Ellis, a current student, said he feels that A.S.T.A.R is a very effective program—better than others he's tried—and that it teaches self-control in more ways than one.
"When you're in prison you are in a controlled environment, and not to mention the fear of being put in the hole for whatever reason you're in there for. You have no other choice but to do what you have to do," he said. "I took a step back and looked at my life, and now I can see that life is the same everywhere I go. No matter what I do, I will always have to follow rules and regulations in life."
Part of the reason that Abdur R. Rashid started the program was that he was imprisoned himself for 13 years. Asked about the impact the program is making on the community, Rashid said it was therapeutic for him to give back to the community. "The fact that it is voluntary makes me feel great knowing that people want the help," he said.
Although Rashid has a working relationship with the Dayton Weekly News, he said that the best way to tell people about the program is by word of mouth. He is proud of the sustainability of the program and how people stay involved.
"At A.S.T.A.R. we're like a family. Even once [ex-offenders] graduate and go on with their jobs and life, we still stay in contact and they still come out and support the program and help the community," he said.
Rayfield Hutchinson, a graduate of the program, said the program allowed him to repent for all the wrong that he'd done. "I thank God for coming into my life and changing me into the man that I have become. I am trying to make a change in my community as are the others in the program. This is my way of making up for lost time in my community," he said.
Hutchinson and others go to correctional facilities and speak to the inmates to let them know that they need to change. "We advise them that they need to evaluate their lives and themselves," he said.
Rashid said he knew that the program was really working when one of the participants noted that A.S.T.A.R. may be a program, but the participants aren't "being programmed." "We have to realize that reentry is a process and not an 8 hour-a-day job," he said. "It takes the efforts of the whole community to help."
Tamica Payton is one of three summer interns (http://www.ncjrs.gov/ccdo/in-sites/summer2005/reentry_3.html) at CCDO.
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Housing Issues for Ex-Offenders
Enhancing Problem-Solving Projects Through Offender Interviews
American Indian/Alaska Native
Police Cross Boundaries To Keep the Peace
If police officers see people break the law but cannot arrest them, change is needed.
For years in the small, high-crime towns of Walthill and Macy, NE, tension has simmered over how the Omaha Tribe police and the Walthill police can maintain order with Native and non-Native populations. The circumstances are more complicated today because Walthill, population 903, has shifted from a predominantly white village to a predominantly Native one.
Some of the tension started to dissipate in April when a cross-deputization agreement gave both the Walthill police and Omaha Tribe police the authority to arrest Natives and non-Natives alike in the village of Walthill. Before the agreement, which took place with the help of Weed and Seed, Walthill police could not arrest tribal members, and Omaha Tribe police could not arrest non-Native individuals.
"It's what we need," said Edward Tyndall, Chief of Police of the Omaha Nation Law Enforcement Services. "It's greatly increased the quality of life in Walthill."
Tyndall notes, however, that much more is needed. He and his officers would like the authority to arrest non-Native people on the reservation, which includes Macy. Crimes committed by a non-Indian against an Indian are not within the tribe's authority, but when Tyndall calls the county, the officers there say they don't have jurisdiction either.
Generally, federally recognized tribes retain jurisdiction over crimes committed by Indians in Indian Country, regardless of the victim's tribal affiliation. Crimes committed by a non-Indian against an Indian in Indian Country are under federal jurisdiction. States have jurisdiction over crimes committed by non-Indians against non-Indians in Indian Country.
Another agreement, signed in June, that may help with this gray area bestows full authority on Tyndall's officers to arrest and file charges regardless of whether the crime was state or federal in jurisdiction. After receiving specialized training, the police are functioning as deputy federal officers under the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs. "It's a substantial step in the right direction," Tyndall said.
Prosecutorial jurisdiction has not been changed. Violations of tribal law by Natives are still prosecuted in tribal court, and violations of state law by non-Natives are processed in state court. Any crime of a non-Indian against an Indian is considered a federal crime, but the U.S. Attorney's Office does not have the funds to prosecute such crimes, Tyndall said.
Although the cross-deputization agreement has been in effect for only a short time and only some of the officers have received the appropriate training, Tyndall said the vandalism rate has dropped, curfew violations are down, and police response times are quicker.
Despite some concerns, the reaction from residents so far has been pretty positive, according to Weed and Seed staff. Deana Swenson, the Weed and Seed Assistant Site Coordinator, is excited to be working on the problem, especially since she helped get the police to take steps to work together. "We were the ones who were pulling them to the table," Swenson said. "We made them talk."
A new police logo that will represent both departments is being designed, Swenson said, but for now the Walthill police have Walthill Police on one arm and Omaha Nation Police on the other.
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Playing Games To Keep Drugs Away
There's nothing quite as innocent as playing marbles, and there's nothing quite as sinister as methamphetamine.
For Cherokee children in Oklahoma, the traditional game of Cherokee marbles has been passed down for generations, but in the past 2 years it has taken on a different meaning. At public elementary and middle schools across 14 counties, a demonstration program called Use Your Marbles, Don't Use Meth sets up the game as a strategy to prevent use of methamphetamine, or meth, which is the fastest growing drug threat and the most prevalent synthetic drug manufactured in the United States.
Clandestine meth production, distribution, and use are having a big impact on the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, a state with approximately 1,400 meth labs. Many meth labs are operating on Indian lands across the country, where they are contaminating individual properties and the environment at large, endangering children, and putting law enforcement, firefighters, and the general community at risk. The Cherokee Nation's Principal Chief Chad Smith has asked for a 50-percent reduction in meth use during the next 5 years.
According to Levi Keehler, Methamphetamine Prevention Coordinator for Behavioral Health Services for the Cherokee Nation, prevention specialists have to get away from the shotgun approach of going into a school, saying "don't use drugs," and leaving. Long-term investment and involvement of the community are necessary. The Cherokee Nation Methamphetamine Task Force—which includes U.S. Marshals and many local, state, and federal organizations involved with human services, environmental services, and housing—stresses to communities that they must support prevention and treatment activities themselves and that task force members can act only as technical advisors.
Keehler developed the marbles program and a chess program called Keeping Meth in Check to use the games as metaphors for positive life choices. The two programs are part of a comprehensive approach to the meth problem that focuses on enforcement, control of sales of precursor chemicals, environmental cleanup, child protection, prevention, and treatment.
Keehler visited eight schools that have high percentages of American Indians and contacted more than 100 schools, many of which are tiny country schools. Oklahoma does not have any reservations—Indian lands are spread out and the tribal and non-tribal boundaries make for what is often referred to as "checkerboard lands"—so it difficult to find high concentrations of American Indian youth. That and a lack of funding are challenges that hamper Keehler's ability to spread the programs' message easily.
When he talks to children about meth and other drug use, Keehler reinforces the importance of making the right moves at the right time. "It's all in the way that you plan," Keehler said. "I also tell them you have to think ahead a lot of times."
Cherokee marbles are traditionally made of stone. Players team up on a course and attempt to get the marbles into small holes in the ground while playing defense and attempting to knock out their opponents. The game, which Keehler describes as "partly croquet, partly golf, but really neither," teaches strategy, camaraderie, and critical thinking. Elders have expressed interest in teaching the game and how to make the stone marbles because they want to protect their culture. Keehler notes that he gets a better response to his meth education classes at the end of the school year from children who play the game as part of his program.
With chess, Keehler tells students that the game is a battle. "That's kind of like life," he said. When there are problems, he tells them, you have to analyze them and not turn to drugs as the solution. "There's always a way out," Keehler said, adding that he hopes that next year at least one county will have a chess club in every school.
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Jail Facilities Operating in Indian Country Examined
Help States Comply With the Indian Child Welfare Act
American Indian Suicides in Jail: Can Risk Screening Be Culturally Sensitive?