Two years of transitions have taken a toll on a respected public safety program, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. The city’s Weed and Seed effort to root out crime and fertilize social programs got a boost with last week’s announcement last week of $1 million in U.S. Justice Department funds. The program is trying to recover from rampant staff churn, resolve accounting disputes with federal overseers, reconnect with neighborhood leaders, and pinpoint dozens of unaccounted for computers and printers.
The Justice Department has asked Mayor Luke Ravenstahl for explanations or reimbursements for $31,145 in past spending, and urged an inventory of assets paid for with Weed and Seed funds. City officials have yet to find at least $55,000 in electronic equipment. Since late 2005, 10 people have held the three mayor’s office posts dedicated to the Weed and Seed program, the turnover driven by two mayoral transitions, firings, and resignations. That turnover “has substantially impacted the continuity of our program,” said U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan, whose office oversees the effort. Weed and Seed is a Justice Department program launched in 1992. The designation as a Weed and Seed site brings money from Washington to bolster policing, aid social programs and pay some staff salaries. One local leader said that drug houses have been eliminated with the help of “weed” money. “Seed” dollars “funded a lot of community activity around programs that were dealing with self-esteem,” she said.