CAPS officers address community concerns
By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer
September 21, 2017
If you’re frustrated that complaints to the Chicago Police Department about public safety in your community aren’t being answered, you are not alone.
A standing-room-only crowd gathered at the most recent Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy, or CAPS, meeting at 130 N. Garland Court on Sept. 14 to discuss a variety of community concerns, including homeless populations crowding sidewalks, panhandling, and using drugs on the street.
Most notably, residents at the meeting said they are worried that their complaints to the police aren’t being addressed quickly enough, or ever.
How to get results
CPD Officer Nicole Bryson who led the meeting for CAPS beats 111 through 114, said she completely understands why residents are frustrated and offered some suggestions for seeing better results.
“What you say when you call matters,” Bryson said, “because there are certain criteria that have to be met.”
Not every call can be handled by the units dispatched from 911, and not all non-emergency calls can be addressed right away, Bryson said, but there are three things that contribute to seeing progress on non-emergency issues in your neighborhood: the number of calls, the amount of activity, and the volume of complaints.
“The more outcry that you do, the more calls you make, will get you what you need in the district where you reside and the community you pay so much to live in,” Bryson said.
To help residents make more effective reports, the officer offered to organize a workshop this year, led by Office of Emergency Management and Communications staff, that can go over what qualifies as a 911 emergency call, and what residents should say when they phone in.
What are all those officers doing?
Residents said at the Sept. 14 meeting that their frustrations are higher because they aren’t seeing results, but are seeing a heavy presence of officers in their neighborhoods, mostly on foot or on bikes.
Many asked – What are they doing? Why can’t they respond to neighborhood calls?
Officer Bryson explained that foot and bike officers can’t always drop assignments to address resident calls, and frequently get called in to respond to crime at the many retail stores in the area.
“Foot officers are the first to be called for thefts in a highly concentrated area,” Bryson said, “They have to multitask between thefts, traffic, parking tickets.”
Sgt. Dombrowski, who also led the meeting, told residents that with 500,000 people in the downtown area on any given day of the week,
“Police are doing everything we possibly can to keep a lid on what could be happening,” Dombrowski said.
Are there enough officers?
Officer Bryson told residents that the department is in a backlog every afternoon. That means that while trying to address new concerns, they are still working to solve crimes and reports from hours or days before.
“That’s why it may seem to residents why we’re taking forever or not responding,” Bryson said, “We have a lot of responsibility.”
The sergeant said that there are a “very limited number of officers” available at any given time, but that the department is actively working to raise that number.
“We’re hiring as fast as we possibly can,” Dombrowski said.
Additionally, many officers, who can be seen donning bright orange vests, have taken up “special employment” shifts. This means that on their days off, officers are patrolling areas like the Riverwalk to ensure public safety. This year, new special employment stations have been added to the South Michigan Avenue and Lakefront areas.
Why are other areas cleaned up?
Residents commented that other areas in the city, like State and Van Buren, have cleaned up and cleared out when it comes to homeless populations and crime. Officer Bryson said that their process was the same – keep calling and keep complaining, even though it may seem ineffective at the time. While individual calls may not make a difference, continuous, community-wide calls do.
“Stay on it, it takes time,” Bryson said.
Residents also remarked that other areas in Chicago seem safer, cleaner or more crime-free because they are monitored by private security. Areas like Millennium Park, Maggie Daley Park, and the Riverwalk have independent companies working to patrol the area.
Tip: Staying Safe From Intruders
If there is a knock on your door and the person says they are from ComEd or People’s Gas, you should be wary about letting them into your home even if you’ve made an appointment. One way to stay safe is to call that company’s customer service line to confirm that a staff member is scheduled to visit your home, and to ask that staff member’s employee ID or badge number. The person on the other side of the door can then confirm that number with you before entering.