Village Viewpoint – September 2020

By Gary Jenkins, BAPA Safety Liaison

I have lived in the Beverly/Morgan Park community for the past sixteen plus years. My wife Sharon and I moved here from the 6500 block of Sangamon Street.  I am originally from New York City, so Englewood was my first taste of Chicago.

Most of Englewood then, as it is now, was considered a very tough neighborhood. I wasn’t intimidated by Englewood — I’m from the southeast Bronx, and people from the Bronx aren’t intimidated easily.  So, I just did what I had done most of my life: I got involved.  I attended community revitalization meetings; I talked to neighbors and seniors about how we can make our block and neighborhood better; I swept my and other neighbors’ trash from in front of homes; and spoke to the kids on the block about things they could do to improve their chances in life.

Since I was new to Chicago back then, CAPS was a new concept to me.  I was somewhat familiar with NYC community policing efforts, but I had not participated in them in any significant way. Since I was very concerned with being safe and comfortable where I was living, I began attending CAPS meetings where I listened as neighbors shared their concerns over crime and violence on their streets.

One of the things that struck me about those meetings is that there didn’t seem to be a real connection between the residents who attended and the 7th District CAPS officers who conducted the meetings.  Residents also seemed to be reluctant about being forthcoming. I believe there was a sense of hopelessness, fear, and distrust among the residents.

When we moved to Beverly/Morgan Park, Sharon and I began attending 22nd District CAPS meetings. I was struck by how the level of issues were on two different ends of the spectrum for Englewood and Beverly/Morgan Park.  I had come from a district where murder, rape, assault and robbery were the topics of CAPS meetings to a district where kids hanging out in the park after dusk and loud music complaints topped the CAPS agenda.

There were other differences, too.

I noticed there seemed to be a closer connection between the residents and the officers, and that the meetings were attended by other community stake holders like 19th Ward and BAPA representatives. I attended many meetings over the next couple of years, then I made my voice and concerns known.

More than ten years ago I was recruited to serve in a two year term as beat facilitator for Beat 2213. As beat facilitator, I got to know and work with more of the officers of the 22nd District.

Although I have no proof, I believe that one thing that makes the relationship between the residents and officers in the 22nd District different from the 7th District is that more of our officers live in the community.

As I stated earlier, I am from the Bronx, and growing up an African American male in the Bronx, I did not have a great relationship with police officers.   I rarely saw police officers who looked like me.  On more than one occasion, I have been stopped by police because of the color of my skin.

For six years before coming to Chicago, I worked as a peace officer along with and close to law enforcement individuals of all stripes, from federal, state, and local agencies. I began to appreciate and respect the individuals behind the badges who where doing the right thing, the right way.

That is what I have come to know about the personnel at the 22nd District who I have worked with over the years: they do the right thing, the right way.

As BAPA’s Safety Liaison, I view my role with the folks at the 22nd District as merely an extension of my role as an active, concerned, member of this community.

I want to recognize how hard the officers at the 22nd District have been working and the sacrifices they make by working 12 hour shifts with no days off. Special thanks go to the 22nd District police for keeping our community safe during these turbulent times.