'Weed & Seed' neighborhood makes case for 're-fertilizing ' dead federal anti-crime program
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- At least one neighborhood says it's much safer because of federal money. Now their only hope is if the city will cultivate the "Weed and Seed" program.
The program is proven in cutting down violence, in gang-ridden communities.
It was supposed to disperse a million dollars over five years, but funding stopped after four.
At Tuesday's City council meeting, members discussed if they should the city continue to fund it.
The past five years, Fred Holland, and many of his long-time and newer neighbors, have been able to point to Flynn Street and Central with pride.
"It used to be wild out here, back in the 60s and 70s," Holland says.
"When Weed & Seed came, they educated the neighbors and the community, and made a sense of community," landlord and investor Wade Verble says.
Weed & Seed's federal dollars also brought job training for those living in target neighbors. Verble, and his business partner, Jo Beth Kavanaugh, grew more confident in investing and rehabbing several apartment buildings.
"People spoke up," Kavanaugh says.
"You got neighbors who want a safe place, they want it clean, they want it well-lit. Anything happens,they're gonna say something."
Weed & Seed money has covered overtime costs for police officers. But it had an even bigger stick; commit a crime within its designated zones, and you face federal charges and federal time.
"It was a very effective way of reaching gang bangers, and deterring crime," Chattanooga Police Lt. Brian Cotter says.
Weed & Seed money has run out. City Council has debated allocating $20,000 to support some of its program costs.
"What $20,000 buys is help paying the rent, buying supplies--that type thing," says James Moreland, director for East Chattanooga Improvement Incorporated. ECIC was Weed & Seed's predecessor, and now successor.
Moreland is hopeful that Council members and beneficiaries have long memories. Weed & Seed has sprouted public safety programs for children. Job training and leadership classes for their parents. Volunteers are shouldering many, of not most, of the burdens.
"I'm hopeful that $20,000 is only a start," City Council member Russell Gilbert says. "I think we have to look at the overall picture of the whole entire city and maybe look at what we could put into it"
Gilbert doesn't have firm dollar figures in mind. Nor firm ideas yet, as to which neighborhoods those dollars might target.
Verbal has mixed feelings about whether Weed & Seed should 'plant again' at Flynn & Central.
"I'd still like to see them (the police presence) there," he says. "But do we need Weed & Seed programs right in the middle of the community? I' m not so sure that's necessary anymore."