Wednesday, May 23, 2012

'Weed and Seed' grants eliminated as part of federal budget cuts

A federal drug-war grant fund called the "Weed and Seed" program has bitten the dust as part of budget cutting in Washington, D.C., reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ("Anti-crime program 'Weed and Seed' runs out of money," May 23). Checking online, Grits found that the office managing Weed and Seed grants has indeed been shuttered, with the Justice Department managing grants until they expire. Right now there are ten active Weed and Seed grants in Texas that presumably will expire at the end of the fiscal year without possibility of renewal - two grants each in Houston and Dallas, and one grant apiece in San Antonio, Austin, Fort Worth, Corpus Christi, Arlington and El Paso.

Other federal law-enforcement grants have been cut in recent years (Bush II tried to eliminate most of them entirely) and pressure has grown to use federal grants for projects that do more than just maximize drug arrests. Grits has never been a fan of federal subsidies for local law enforcement functions, believing they artificially boost supply of law-enforcement services beyond taxpayers' actual local level of demand (because the feds borrow to pay for it instead of adopting a pay-as-you-go approach). Moreover, it abrogates the separation of responsibilities under federalism for federal money to pay for local law-enforcement, particularly when they do it in some jurisdictions but not others.

Grits happens to live in the Central East Austin Weed and Seed area and while they've sometimes funded community events with the money, I've never witnessed any public-safety benefit one could peg to the program. Anyway, given my druthers, I'd prefer publicly funded cultural events be financed on their own merits, not as a law-enforcement public relations initiative, which is how Grits perceives much of the Weed and Seed programming. Plus, the "weed" part of the program "consists primarily of suppression activities such as enforcement, adjudication, prosecution, and supervision efforts designed to target, apprehend, and incapacitate," which doesn't sound quite as touchy-feely as their more widely publicized activities.

Budget cuts are often portrayed in the media as an immediate crisis, especially by law enforcement, but they're also an opportunity to overcome inertia and re-assess priorities. Grits won't be surprised (nor disappointed) to see federal law-enforcement grants continue to dry up given the rivers of red ink flowing out of Washington. So much of the federal budget is obligated to military and entitlement spending, these sort of discretionary grants are just the sort of low-hanging pork fruit that IMO budget cutters will find increasingly difficult to justify.


Anonymous said...

I once gave up and let the weeds have my garden. We have done that with many of our neighborhoods.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Plant perennials; mulch.

Anonymous said...

Great post and another example of why reading Grits is so worthwhile.

Anonymous said...

What does it mean to Weed and Seed in high crime areas?

Weeding: Law enforcement efforts to remove violent offenders, drug dealers, and other criminals from the target area. This consists primarily of suppression activities such as enforcement, adjudication, prosecution, and supervision efforts designed to target, apprehend, and incapacitate.

Interesting word, "incapacitate."
Definition: to deprive of power, strength, or capacity; disable.

How much power should we allow the criminal element to exercise in our communities? Some want them to be allowed to act with impunity, to continue to act without effective suppression. Some oppose a check on their dominance; the gangs own this hood, they say--just look at the tagging everything.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

11:42, I actually live in one of these targeted neighborhoods and I can tell you to the extent "power" has been wrested from the criminal element here, gentrification did the job much more than any federal pork. Guar-an-teed. Whine and moan about it if you want, but it won't impact the crime rate for the money to go. And it's gone.