CAPS meeting focuses on alley safety and using 911

By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer

November 11, 2017

Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy, or CAPS, meetings covering the New Eastside in the city’s 1st District returned to their alternating location schedule this month. With dozens of residents in attendance from both sides of the district, CAPS liaison Nicole Bryson reported on crime in the district, and addressed citizens’ concerns at a 400 E Randolph St. meeting on Nov 9.

“Crime is down in all of the beats,” said Bryson, “And we don’t have any active theft patterns in the 1st District currently.” At the last beat meeting on Oct. 18, Bryson had alerted residents to high levels of theft in the area, mostly concerning retail shoplifting and robberies from restaurants and bars.

At this month’s meeting, the first issue raised was one that residents said they have brought to the city’s attention several times – parking during festivals. One resident said she was concerned that during festivals held in Millennium Park, especially Chicago Gourmet, buses and other large vehicles park on Randolph Street between Michigan Avenue and Columbus Drive, leaving little room for vehicles to pass through. Residents were concerned that police, ambulances, and fire trucks would not be able to navigate the street in the event of an emergency.

According to the resident reporting the issue, there were no traffic control persons on site, and a call to 311 did not result in any clearing of the street.

Bryson agreed that a festival of that size should have some sort of traffic control, “That’s probably something that we need to implement going forward.” Bryson urged residents to call 911 not 311 with such concerns in the future. 311 should be used for events that aren’t ongoing, said Bryson.

As other residents voiced new concerns, Bryson said she would also look into graffiti on newspaper boxes in front of the AON building, and the timing of cross walk signals and traffic lights for crossings Van Buren Street and Michigan Avenue.

While a variety of topics were discussed throughout the hour long gathering of police and residents, one main concern focused on alley way safety.

According to a group of residents who live near the intersection of South State Street and East Van Buren Street, near the DePaul Center, an alleyway near their building has recently been crowded by a group of people who are not residents of the building. Residents say they have witnessed incidents of the individuals exposing themselves, making violent threats, and using drugs.

According to Bryson, the police had been alerted to this group, who Bryson said police believe are the same group of people that previously to gathered in the area of Pritzker Park. She added that the department would “put some special attention in that area” going forward.

In September, the Chicago Police Department Narcotics Division released a report, distributed by CAPS, that detailed a recent Narcotics Enforcement Mission in the Pritzker Park Area. According to the report, ten individuals were arrested in Pritzker Park and charged with distribution or possession of a controlled substance, and as of September, the department is still looking for five more suspects.

The Narcotics division said most of the individuals arrested were members of the Black Disciples or Gangster Disciples street gang, and that the department seized cash and narcotics at the scene.The operation, carried out by the Narcotics Division and 1st district officers, was spurred by residents complaining about public violence and narcotic sales near the park.

At the CAPS meeting, residents were happy to hear that the CPD were already aware of this issue. “We’re actively trying to do something,” said one resident, who said she had met with her building’s security team. “We just want the police to know and continue to help us out.”

Bryson again encouraged residents to call 911 anytime they see suspicious persons or activity in the alleyway.

“If they aren’t walking or driving through or bringing the trash, people shouldn’t be in the alleys,” said Bryson, “If they are, you can call and report it every time.”

For further safety on the issue, Bryson and Bailey distributed a handout of CAPS Alley Safety Tips, signed off by Chicago Police Department Supt. Eddie Johnson and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The handout says that while alleys should primarily be used for off street parking and garbage pick up, “unfortunately, alleys can also provide cover for burglars and other criminals.” One resident at the meeting pointed out that the alley near the DePaul center is covered, shielding the group from harsh weather conditions.

In the CAPS handout, residents are encouraged to abide by the following safety tips:

  • Secure your back door and gate.

Burglars often enter through a less-visible back door, so “locks and visibility of entrances are your best defense against crime.” CAPS also recommends using deadbolts.

  • Secure your garage.

According to CAPS, garages offer an opportunity for theft and a place to hide. Residents should consider using an automatic garage door opener that will help make coming home safer, and using light or motion sensing lighting devices near their garage.

  • Light your alley and backyard.

Residents should “deny criminals the cover of darkness” by making sure the rear of the property is well lit. One way to do this is to immediately report any city installed lights that are out or not working properly.

  • Place your address in the back of your property.

This helps police if a criminal uses your property as access to an alley. It’s important to remember that your address should be on your home, door, or gate, not only on on garbage cans or other moveable objects.

  • Don’t use alleys as alternatives to streets.

Using more heavily traveled streets is safer, especially if traveling alone and at night.

  • Keep your alley clean.

Accumulated trash can send a signal to criminals that no one cares about the neighborhood, and may not report a crime.

Throughout the meeting, Bryson continuously repeated one safety tip: call 911.

“Taxpayers of the city of Chicago, stop calling 311,” said Bryson. “You pay for 911, use your city services.”

The officer said that even if officers don’t respond to a 911 call, the calls for service are recorded and an event is logged into the system.

“It doesn’t have to be life threatening, because not every area in Chicago has life threatening issues. If it is a current issue that’s happening now, call us,” said Bryson.

Bryson said the 311 line should be used for concerns of things that have happened in the past, not current issues, and that residents shouldn’t be worried about taking emergency services away from another crime, adding that calls are prioritized as they come in.

“We’re busy and overwhelmed but call us anyway.” said Bryson “We respond to every inch of this city.”

At the meeting several residents also commented on seeing an increased number of patrolmen in the area, a concern brought up in September, and commended the CPD for their increased effort.

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