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City Sites In Line For Anti-Crime Funds

June 18, 2005
By JEFFREY B. COHEN, Courant Staff Writer

Two Hartford neighborhoods have been jointly recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice as a "Weed and Seed" site, a designation that opens the door to federal crime-fighting funding.

In becoming the only New England community to receive the recognition in 2005, the Upper Albany and Clay-Arsenal neighborhoods will together be given priority to participate in federally sponsored training and are eligible to apply for federal Weed and Seed funds, said Kevin J. O'Connor, U.S. attorney for Connecticut.

"This is a very integral step," he said, adding that only one-third of all communities that apply for the status get it. Communities that receive the designation almost always receive funds, he said.

"We certainly are putting far more resources into Hartford than any other city in the state, and it's because of a determination that, right now, Hartford needs those resources," he said. "This is a very good thing."

The Weed and Seed program aims to rid an area of violent crime and then provide social and economic services to allow residents to reclaim the neighborhood. According to O'Connor, the strategy involves four principles: aggressive law enforcement strategies; community policing; the use of crime prevention, intervention and treatment services; and neighborhood restoration and revitalization.

The program generally provides a community with five years' of funding totaling slightly more than $1 million - half spent on law enforcement and half on community services, he said.

In 1994, the Stowe Village housing project in Hartford received nearly $700,000 in Weed and Seed funding designed to curb drug traffic and violence and return control of the community to its residents. The Northeast neighborhood also received the designation, but it had some hitches with the funding, O'Connor said.

In April 2004, Willimantic was designated as a Weed and Seed site; one year later, it was promised $1 million in federal funding over five years, the first $175,000 installment of which is to arrive this summer.

"This official recognition is a credit to all of the community representatives, merchants, educators, and others who have been working so diligently on this project since early 2004," O'Connor said.

Members of the police department have spent the better part of a year collecting and organizing information for a committee set up to guide the application process, said the Rev. Donald Steinle of the Christian Activities Council. Steinle served on the committee as well.

"There are really two focuses," Steinle said. "One is to provide some extra resources for policing, which is badly needed. And, from my perspective, even more important is to try to find a way to engage the youth in the neighborhood, find employment opportunities ... and a way to try to get at the teenage violence, which is just epidemic."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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