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Weed And Seed Program Is Making Chinatown Safer, Officials Say

The program launched in July and already, more than 70 have been arrested.

More than 70 people have been arrested since July in connection with the city’s Weed and Seed program in Chinatown.

At a Wednesday press conference on the program’s progress, Interim Police Chief Rade Vanic said that 74 individuals have been arrested as part of the effort to reduce crime in Chinatown. The majority of the charges have been drug-related, although others have been arrested for criminal trespassing and destruction of property.

Over two dozen of those arrested were homeless people, according to Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steven Alm, who touted the program’s “weeding” aspect – a focus on the criminal elements in the area — after a 20-year hiatus.

“HPD is going to be arresting people,” Alm said. “We’re going to be prosecuting them and we are going to make this area safe again.”

People charged in connection with the program were taken to Oahu Community Correctional Center — where capacity has been over 90% since the program began on July 17. At the jail, those arrested were screened and assessed before being placed into either a drug-treatment program, mental health program or both.

“Covid is a challenge to the court system as well, but we’re not allowing Covid to stop us from doing the right thing here,” Alm said. “And I think you can already see that Chinatown looks better.”

Alm added that there are no unique penalties imposed on those arrested in connection with the program except that bail may be set higher. However, he said the arrests provide the “quick attention” needed in the area.

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“We’re going to work with HPD,” he said. “They are going to be identifying mentally ill folks that are causing community problems, maybe not breaking other laws but probably causing disorderly conduct and other stuff.”

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said he is pleased with the progress the Weed and Seed program is making. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

To increase their presence in the area, HPD committed extra resources to Chinatown, including bike patrols, the community policing team and Fourth Watch officers — newly recruited probationary officers assigned to foot patrol, traffic enforcement and undercover enforcement.

The city initially allocated at least $250,000 to the program which coincided with the police department’s Chinatown initiative, Vanic said, which brought more officers into the neighborhood. The mayor’s office has since committed three years worth of funds to the Weed and Seed program – another $750,000 – from federal American Rescue Plan funds.

Crime rates in nearly every category dropped across Honolulu last year, according to HPD’s latest annual report. The total number of people arrested fell by approximately 27% between 2019 and 2020. Drug-related arrests – those the Weed and Seed program is now focusing on — fell by nearly a third during that same time.

The city is currently assessing crime metrics to gauge the effectiveness of the program and will also do so again in two years, Alm said.

Mayor Rick Blangiardi, who joined Alm, Vanic, and council member Carol Fukunaga on Wednesday, said that he was pleased by the progress the program was making.

“We are going to make a difference,” Blangiardi said. “This time around, we are really going to make this happen.”

The “seed” portion of the program is about reinvigorating the area with social programs to build the community, Alm said. The Weed and Seed program was originally implemented in 1998 and the first partner was HPD. The “weed” aspect was carried out by police for a few years but was discontinued for about two decades while the “seed” aspect continued.

“The police department kept on with it for a couple years, but you’ve got to have the teamwork of prosecutors and police and community working together,” Alm said. “The seed components are still in place, so it’s a question of marrying them up.”

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About Us

The purpose of the California Crop Improvement Association (CCIA) is to provide seed certification service, a voluntary quality assurance program for the maintenance and increase of agronomic and vegetable crop seed. Each variety that is entered into this program has been evaluated for its unique characteristics such as pest resistance, adaptability, uniformity, quality, and yield. Seed production is closely monitored by CCIA to prevent out-crossing, weed, other crop and disease contamination that may negatively affect seed quality.

CCIA is a non-profit corporation, managed by an executive director who reports to an elected and representational Board of Directors on matters of policy and finance. The Board consists of one Director elected from each of the five districts and five Directors-At-Large which are appointed by the Board. The remaining members are composed of representatives from the UC Cooperative Extension, CA Department of Food and Agriculture, CA Farm Bureau, CA Ag Commissioners Association, CA Seed Association and UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. These representatives are appointed to the board by their organizations.

A UC Advisory Committee comprised of a representative from the UC Davis College of Agriculture, UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Center, and UC Davis Foundation Seed Program provide the Board with guidance and recommendations as needed.

California Certified Seed is produced under strict standards established by the CCIA Board of Directors and the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA). Seed certification is conducted with the supervision of the County Agricultural Commissioners, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, California Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension.

The California Crop Improvement Association is the official seed certifying agency in California as recognized by California Seed Law. In addition, when the United States became a participant in the international seed certification scheme administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), CCIA became the designated authority to conduct the OECD program in California. The OECD is responsible for administering the seed certification program in member countries and non-member countries that participate in the scheme. All cereal, herbage and oil, and maize and sorghum seed exported to European Union countries must be produced under OECD guidelines.

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Field inspections are coordinated during periods when distinct crop morphological characteristics, diseases and other important criteria are most noticeable. Field inspectors also look for weeds producing seed that may be virtually indistinguishable in appearance from crop seed.

Certification genetic purity standards are well-defined because when purity is compromised, insect and disease resistance, crop quality and uniformity can be reduced.

An additional seed quality characteristic that is monitored in certification is germination, with minimum requirements for certified seed ranging from 80-90% depending on crop species. Seed movement is monitored by CCIA from field harvest, through the conditioning plant, and in the bag. Seed samples are taken at the time of conditioning and are closely examined in the seed laboratory. Seed must meet minimum germination and purity standards. Purity is tested not only for inert, weed and other crop seed, but also for its true-to-type nature. Seed morphological characteristics are noted in variety description files and seed appearance is checked against what the breeder has described. Samples can be rejected if “off-type” seeds are found at a percentage that is greater than standards permit, as is occasionally the case with beans, cereals and sunflowers.

California Crop Improvement works closely as a partner in the seed industry and with the seed grower to assist in the production of high quality, certified seed. The mission of CCIA is to engage in any activity that promotes the production, distribution and use of superior quality seed. Crop varieties today have tremendously complex genotypes and advancements in genetics are occurring at rates unimagined just a few years ago. Because the assurance of genetic purity and quality contributes great value to seed, certified seed sells for a higher price than “common” seed, often returning greater profits to the grower and conditioner. Use of superior quality certified seed assures that the full genetic potential of a variety is uncompromised and available for the production of the highest quality crop yields.