In St. Paul’s Frogtown and Seattle’s Central District, hookers and cocky young drug dealers worked street corners while wary neighbors kept their children inside, reports the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Graffiti sprouted on boarded-up houses, and empty lots grew weeds. Then, police, after years of failed crime-busting attempts, tried new techniques that drove dealers off street corners. The drop in crime offered an opening for change.
Operation Sunrise was supposed to mark the dawn of a new day in St. Paul’s most crime-ridden neighborhood. Using $112,000 from the federal Weed and Seed program, police in August 2002 secretly videotaped hundreds of drug deals; unlike some other strategies tried before, this one seemed to work.
With the neighborhood “weeded” of criminals, Frogtown appeared poised for the “seeding” part of the equation – the arrival of new businesses and housing intended to lift it out of crime and poverty. Nearly two years later, few hammers have swung. In Seattle, considered the most successful Weed and Seed effort in the country, the combined energy of police, activists, churches, community groups, the school district, and city leaders built momentum that gave the Central neighborhood new life.
In the year following Operation Sunrise, calls to police about drug-related street crime in the area targeted dropped by 35 percent, the Pioneer Press found. The newspaper examined a decade’s worth of computerized police calls related to drugs, prostitution, robbery, assault, illegal weapons, shots fired, loitering. and disorderly conduct. The percentage drop outpaced any other neighborhood and was almost three times greater than the decrease in such crimes citywide.