Community poverty. Since the spikes in criminal activity always coincide with downturns in the economy, it’s easy to demonstrate a connection between poverty and crime.
Your social service team members also need to help ex-offenders re-enter society after they have been released from prison. You don’t have two or three or four months to start helping them find employment and a new circle of friends either.
So be sure that you have strong and knowledgeable people on your steering committee to increase the likelihood that you will actually improve the community and improve individual lives, and not just cause criminals to relocate a couple of blocks away.
We were very sorry to see this program go, because of its effective combination of extra law enforcement (weeding), networking for social services and education providers in the community (seeding), and resident meetings aimed at mobilizing the population to report questionable activities and follow through when they need to testify.
Keys to Success with a Program Based on the Weed and Seed Idea
Abandoned buildings. Vacant buildings and lots are hangouts for many types of counterproductive behavior, so don’t give it a place to happen.
In the history of the program, hundreds of Weed and Seed sites operating under the director of the local U.S. Attorney’s office have met with varying degrees of success in ridding areas of crime, gangs, drugs, and social dysfunction of all types.
For this program to be successful in the long-run, there must be local community buy-in.
Some Observations about This Community Drug Program
Look beyond the obvious places for partners too. How about the local library, training providers, arts organizations and individual artists, musicians, drug counseling, drug courts, religious orders or non-profits providing options for prostitutes, employment programs that really work, entrepreneurship support projects, healthy corner store or food initiatives happening in your community, and so forth.
Community mental health. Typically I didn’t see even Weed and Seed programs go far enough in supporting general mental health and relationship skills, which is the only way to prevent drug abuse and addictions of all types. To be excellent with your local program, you should attempt to attract mental health professionals who can help heal some of the brokenness.
Kikkawa has covered Hawaiʻi’s ongoing ice epidemic for The Hawai’i Review of Books, and is researching Hawaiʻi’s social and criminal history for a series of crime novels.
Kikkawa points out that prostitution, rampant before the first Weed and Seed, was allowed in Chinatown during World War II and prior when Hawaiʻi was a Kingdom and Territory.
Kikkawa cites the Keʻeaumoku and Kapiʻolani areas.
Listen to Alm’s longer interview with HPR’s Noe Tanigawa from The Aloha Friday Conversation on Aug. 27, 2021.
“There’s also a cultural aspect to it. In many Asian cultures, gambling is not considered to be immoral. Although it is illegal in many places, it is not considered to be immoral,” Kikkawa said. “Prostitution, the sex trade, the line blurs. A lot of it is not what we call a quid pro quo/sex for money exchange which is how prostitution statutes are written.”
Beginning in 1997, City Prosecutor Steven Alm helped steer a process that weeded out criminal elements and seeded in community building activities. That effort predated Chinatown’s last flowering in the 2000s.
“We’ve been going for about a month. I think it’s already had a noticeable effect on Chinatown. It’s safer, it’s cleaner, I think the merchants just want to be left alone to sell their products,” Alm said.