By Gary Jenkins
BAPA Safety Liaison
What are CAPS Beat meetings and what can you get out of attending monthly meetings?
Let’s begin with a brief history of CAPS. Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) began in 1993 as a pilot program in five Chicago police districts. Working with the Neighborhood Relations Unit, the concept of CAPS is to forge a relationship between police, residents and other community stakeholders. The goal of CAPS is to, with the aid of district residents, identify current and potential problems, and ongoing concerns within the community.
The police are there to enforce the laws, but they alone cannot solve all the problems in the community. Finding solutions to the community’s safety concerns through CAPS is a joint responsibility of the police and the community.
The engine of the CAPS program is the Beat meeting.
What is a Beat?
Each of Chicago’s 22 police districts are divided into sections called beats. The 22nd District has nine beats, four of which are located in the BAPA service area: Beats 2211, 2212, 2213 and 2221.
What is a Beat Meeting?
Each month the Chicago Police Department host meetings in each beat, bringing together police officers, residents, and community stakeholders. Beat meeting can be held at the police station, a community room, a place of worship, of at a Chicago Park District facility. Although these meetings are currently being held virtually, local beat meetings are held at Christ the King Church (beat 2221), Ridge Park (beats 2212 and 2213) and the 22nd District Police Station (beat 2211).
The agenda for each meeting is determined by the concerns of the community. These concerns are discussed with the hope of coming up with solutions. Concerns can range from loud music and noisy neighbors to more serious crime related issues. Concerns about problem properties and troubled buildings are also discussed.
At times, guests from city, state, county, and federal agencies are invited to beat meetings to share their expertise with the community and to answer questions from the residents.
Who Conducts the Meeting?
The CAPS officer and a civilian beat facilitator oversee the meetings, but the truth is, residents run the meetings. It is the pressing concerns of residents that dictate how the meetings should progress. As the facilitator for Beat 2213, I always remind my neighbors that beat meetings are not one-hour gripe sessions but one-hour conversations about problem-solving. I want to always respect the time of my neighbors by making every effort to start and end the meetings on time.
What Do You Get Out of Attending Beat Meetings?
Like almost anything else, you will get out of the monthly Beat meetings just you put into them. Attending the meetings is one way to stay informed of what is going in your community, and to have a forum for discussing concerns regarding problems on your block or near your block or street. An added benefit of attending meetings is that you, along with the beat officers, work together to come up with a solution to your concern.
The police alone cannot provide solutions for many community concerns that come up in beat meetings. A collective effort by all concerned is the usually the best way to problem-solve.
Due to COVID-19, all 22nd District beat meetings are being held via zoom, allowing everyone the opportunity to attend from the comfort of their homes. To find out your beat and get meeting dates and times as well as Zoom information, email the 22nd District CAPS office at 022District.firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-745-0620.