Weed and Seed Program
In a recent Column Left (“Police Have Some ‘Weeds’ of Their Own,” Aug. 10), Jorge R. Mancillas expressed reservations about the recently approved Weed and Seed program in Los Angeles. Mancillas incorrectly assumed that the Los Angeles program would begin with a massive law enforcement effort without attempting to reconcile existing difficulties with police-community relations. Mancillas also dismissed the “seed” or human services component as nothing more than “a few crumbs.” Unfortunately, Mancillas was not familiar with the details of the Los Angeles program when he wrote his article. I have since talked with Mancillas and offer the following overview with the hope of correcting some misperceptions about the Los Angeles Weed and Seed program.
Weed and Seed is a strategy that combines community-based law enforcement (“weed”) with human services (“seed”) in order to assist residents in reclaiming and revitalizing their neighborhoods. New federal funding ($18 million for human services; $1 million for law enforcement) is combined with existing local resources to develop more effective programs within the selected communities. Los Angeles has two Weed and Seed sites: one is in the Pico-Union/Koreatown area and one is in South-Central Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles program did not begin with a massive law enforcement effort, as Mancillas asserts. Because the Los Angeles program has $18 million for human services, our primary objectives have been to secure the federal funding for 1992 and implement the human services programs as quickly as possible. Community, city, county and federal representatives have established working groups in areas such as education; housing; job training and placement; family, health and mental services; gang alternatives, and drug prevention and treatment. The city has already received funding for housing subsidies and job training.
In addition to planning and establishing the 1992 federally funded programs, the working groups are charged with developing long-term strategies for dealing with the problems of the Weed and Seed communities. The federal funds provide a good foundation to leverage existing resources and to encourage coordinated efforts. The implementation of successful programs in 1992 also will provide a base for increased funding in 1993.
As to Mancillas’ observation that a successful “weed” component requires a reconciliation between the police and community, we agree. In fact, the law enforcement representatives participating in the Weed and Seed program are committed to community-based policing and to improving community relations. Law enforcement officials have proposed several programs, such as bicycle patrols, recreational activities, and mobile substations, in order to improve relations between the police and the Weed and Seed communities. There will be no indiscriminate “sweeps”; rather, police will rely on the residents to assist in ridding the neighborhoods of the most violent and destructive criminals. Chief Willie Williams is committed to community-based policing and supports the Weed and Seed strategy of combining human services with supportive law enforcement.
While the Weed and Seed program cannot change community-police relations or resolve the problems of our inner cities overnight, it is a step in the right direction and should be supported. We have an opportunity to set aside our fears and establish some lasting dialogues.
TERREE A. BOWERS
Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney
Coordinator, L.A. Weed and Seed Program