Local officials won't know the fate of federal funding for the Weed & Seed program until the budget process has run its course. We hope, in the end, that funding is fully restored.
Com-munity leaders heard recently that funding for the neighborhood crime prevention program had been slashed by 35 percent -- about $50,000 -- in the federal budget approved last year. But U.S. Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., said the budget blueprint introduced by the Democratic majority in Congress last week would restore full funding for Weed & Seed.
This program has demonstrated its value to the community, particularly the neighborhoods targeted by organizers for help. The program, which began in Rock Hill and 21 other cities across the nation three years ago, seeks to establish a variety of stable social programs in the city's most crime-ridden areas.
Organizers take a multi-faceted approach combining neighborhood empowerment, law enforcement and community policing. In 2006, for example, more than 50 volunteers accompanied by police escorts, cleaned up trash and debris in a vacant overgrown lot on Green Street. The idea was to enlist members of the community to keep the neighborhood clean and inspire residents to be vigilant in reporting crime.
The effort has paid off in tangible ways. Arrests for drug-related crimes, assault and burglary rose 45 percent in the first year of the program. Calls for police service rose 48 percent.
Weed & Seed also has sponsored after-school programs for children in targeted neighborhoods, which in addition to Green Street, include Hagins-Fewell, Flint Hill and Sunset Park/Crawford Road. While law enforcement is a key component to Weed & Seed, morale-building and neighborhood pride also are emphasized.
We hope the day comes when there is no need for a program such as Weed & Seed and neighborhoods are more self-sustaining. For now, though, reducing money for a program of proven value seems shortsighted.
We hope a majority in Congress will see it that way, too.
Rock Hill's Weed & Seed program deserves continued funding from Congress.