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Public Involvement: Community Policing in Chicago

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2000
36 pages
Publication Series
This report summarizes recent research on citizen involvement in Chicago's community policing initiative, known as the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS).
CAPS was launched in late 1994 after an experimental period, and most aspects were operational in all of the city's police districts by May 1995. A problem solving orientation anchors the model's core. Community meetings held regularly in every beat enable many more residents to become involved in CAPS and are the focus of this report. These gatherings have been held in Chicago's 279 police beats nearly every month since 1995. Attendees include police officers who work in the area and neighborhood residents. These meetings are the forum for identifying local problems and local resources for dealing with them, setting priorities, and deciding what to do about the most important issues. They are also important venues for the formation of partnerships between police and residents around problem solving projects. This report examines several aspects of citizen involvement in Chicago's community policing efforts. First, it describes public awareness. The findings highlight the impact of an aggressive marketing campaign that has significantly raised public awareness of community policing. Knowledge of the CAPS initiative has increased among all major groups and is highest among the city's black residents. Second, the report details trends in beat meeting participation over time and where participation is high or low. There is no evidence that the novelty of the effort has worn off; in fact, involvement has increased each year since 1995. More significantly, attendance rates are highest in poor, high-crime communities. Third, the study examines what happens at beat meetings. Although investigators found that the skeletal framework for beat meetings is solidly in place, there is little evidence that beat meetings have become a general vehicle for the kind of systematic problem solving that the department envisions. Rather, many continue to function as "911" sessions where individuals express their complaints, or as "show and tell" meetings where police lecture and display crime maps or statistics while residents sit mute. The findings show that beat-meeting participants who are networked with each other are more likely to attend frequently and to become involved in problem solving. These findings are drawn from a continuing evaluation of Chicago's community policing initiative. 5 figures, 2 tables, 2 suggested readings, and 2 notes

Date Published: September 1, 2000