By Gary Jenkins
The Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) program is a critical component of the City of Chicago Police Department’s community policing effort. A major part of the CAPS program is the neighborhood Beat meetings which enable residents to stay informed about what is happening on their beat and to take active roles in identifying potential problems and finding solutions.
A vital part of every Beat meeting is joint problem solving when residents and police identify a problem and collectively produce a solution. The Beat meetings also provide residents with valuable tools to assist in crime prevention and overall awareness.
One such tool is the neighbors reaching out to one another via phone or text trees with important safety information. Using the traditional phone tree, the first call is made to 911 to report a crime or suspicious activity to the police, and then communicates the information to neighbors. According to the Chicago Police website, “A phone tree lists residents according to their address and can be a rapid communication and reporting system.”
Neighbors also use texts, emails, and new applications such as Nextdoor and GroupMe to stay alert, informed and connected.
A group of neighbors recently initiated what they hope will be a great asset in their quest to combat recent crimes in the area of Park 581 at 116th and Oakley. The Park Advisory Council 581 was formed to address the future of the greenspace, but in response to a couple of carjackings 116th and Bell and Oakley, the group set up a GroupMe app to connect neighbors.
Dorothy Chandler, a longtime Morgan Park resident and Park 581 PAC member, contacted BAPA to share the PAC’s efforts to form an effective neighbor-to-neighbor communications tool. According to Chandler, after the carjackings, the PAC got the names of the residents on Bell & Oakley, across from Park 581, and sent letters to gauge their interest in being a part of a phone tree. So far, approximately 30 residents between 116th and 119th Streets from Longwood Drive to Western Avenue have signed up, and are using GroupMe, a free group messaging app, to communicate.
In January, I attend the Park 581 PAC general meeting via Zoom to share the importance of building a relationship with the 22nd District CAPS office and CAPS Officer Kurrin Beamon. The 22nd District is where Beverly/Morgan Park neighbors should turn to get information and guidance on how they can be more effective as neighbors and serve as the eyes and ears of the Police.
I am pleased to report that the lines of communication between the Park 581 PAC, Officer Beamon and the 22nd District CAPS office are strong. Chandler said that in addition to providing a copy of a community alert with the photograph of the alleged carjacker at the business on 118th & Western Avenue to be shared with the neighbors, she also provided the Beat information and 2022 Beat schedule for Beat 2212, which covers the portion of Morgan Park which includes Park 581. The Park 581 PAC is also using its monthly newsletter to keep the neighbors informed.
Neighbor-to-neighbor communications via phone trees or texting are valuable tools for all Beverly/Morgan Park residents. Contact the 22nd District CAPS office, 312 745-0620, or Officer Beamon, firstname.lastname@example.org for information on tools residents can utilize to maintain a safe community. If you are interested in reaching out to the Park 581 PAC to discuss how the GroupMe application is working, contact Mike Doyle at email@example.com. For information on the app, visit groupme.com.