Going into its third year, the East Chattanooga Weed and Seed partnerships and funding have helped reduce crime and improve the health and well-being of area residents, officials said Thursday night.
"It's a multifacet(ed) program that doesn't just concentrate on busting people," said Vivian Hixson, Weed and Seed site coordinator. "You want to grow your residents to where they have independence and they have knowledge on where the services are."
East Chattanooga Weed and Seed officials gave their annual update on progress made to improve the community to a crowd of about 40 residents Thursday night. The committee was awarded a $1 million grant by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2007 to distribute toward community improvement over a five-year period.
After two years of "weeding out" crime, violence, drugs and gang activity in the community, the area is starting to see improvements, said Lt. Brian Cotter of the Chattanooga Police Department.
"You can drive around the neighborhood now and not have people coming up flagging you down to try to sell you crack," Lt. Cotter said.
Two full-time police officers are paid to monitor the Weed and Seed community, and in the last year crime has decreased by 25.4 percent, according to arrest reports.
Other programs are aiding the community, including the Grass Roots Health Fair and a drug and alcohol counseling center, said Mildred Moreland, Weed and Seed health committee chairwoman.
The health fair has been "very successful" with about 400 people attending to learn about health issues including teen pregnancy prevention and HIV/AIDS, Ms. Moreland said.
Last year was focused on getting rid of negative aspects of the neighborhood, and this year will be similar, Ms. Hixson said. Toward the middle of the year the committee hopes to begin some of the rebuilding aspects by transitioning into development programs for the community, she said.
"This third year we're going to continue with our youth programs, our neighborhood programs and with the weeding part of it," she said.
But funds are limited, and Weed and Seed staff members asked the crowd for more community involvement.
"We need help," said James Moreland, chairman of the Weed and Seed steering committee. "We believe it takes all of us."