Crime in Chicago is like falling in love; it may happen all the time, but you only really notice when it happens to you. In an effort to reduce the former (and thereby enable more of the latter), community policing events are held throughout the year, especially in the summer. Last night, I attended two in neighboring Avondale.
We live in a city of neighborhoods. Avondale and Logan Square are just two of a bazillion. The local government is made up of 50 Wards, each led by a single alderman. The Chicago Police Department, however, has its own map. The city is divided into 25 districts, within which there are 279 beats.
Logan Square’s district is district 14, and always makes an effort to get to know residents and vice versa. Seeing police offers on the 606 or in schools with students helps create a solid relationship with la enforcement and the community.
Wednesday at 6 p.m.., a dozen or so officers from district 17 gathered at the corner of Addison and Pulaski for what’s known as a Roll Call. When I asked one officer what a Roll Call was, they said quite plainly, “It’s like attendance.”
The officers stood in two lines in front of less than a dozen locals, 30th Ward Alderman Ariel E. Reboyras, Senator Iris Y. Martinez, and State Representative Jaimie Andrade Jr. 45th Ward Alderman James Gardiner showed up as well.
This was the first of these I had ever attended (the District has held ten in the last three weeks), and I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Part political theater, part morale booster, part wholesome America, Alderman Reboyras addressed the crowd, Senator Martinez addressed the officers in front of the crowd, and the police received applause. It started to rain, and the officers were dismissed back to their squad cars and back to work. The whole thing was through in about ten minutes.
Later within the hour, both aldermen, State Rep. Andrade Jr., a few of the police officers, and some of the crowd went over to the Chicago Park District’s Athletic Field House for the monthly CAPS meeting for Beat 1732. CAPS is short for Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy. Of the 31 chairs available to the public, 12 were occupied as district leadership reported decreased crime and notable arrests.
Because these meetings are beat-specific, and because beats are relatively small sections of the city (1732 roughly consisting of the homes and businesses between Irving Park and Belmont, Kedzie and Kimball), crimes were discussed with a surprising amount of detail. A purse snatching was recounted with not only the time, date, and intersection of its occurrence—we were also informed of the incarceration statuses of the juvenile offenders. A local pedophile was name-checked. A judge’s recent sentencing was described with the attached aside of, “We do our jobs, the courts do theirs.”
Citizens in attendance were given space to voice concerns, complaints, and ask questions, of which there were several. One gentleman who said he’d been living in the same home for 36 years described a new neighbor who made him feel uncomfortable. He wasn’t clear on the specifics, but people looked at the man with a whole lot of sympathy, and afterward, the police followed up for more detail.
The meeting lasted about an hour and was moderated by volunteers. Everybody was pretty cordial to each other and seemed altogether earnest. There wasn’t much racial diversity in attendance; most were older.
And really, I can’t say it was a waste of time. It’s important for people to feel safe in their neighborhoods. Meeting local police, learning about trends, even having a space to vent—this helps people feel connected to their community.
Theoretically, these meetings are also a place for local citizenry to hold police accountable. Don’t like the way an interaction went down? Tired of a specific officer? Worried about a particular corner down the street? Show up, speak up. It’s your right, privilege, and possibly even your duty.
In and around Logan Square, there are CAPS meetings June 20 at The Habitat, June 26 at Casa Central, July 11 at St. Nicolai Church, and July 18 at the Logan Square Public Library.