CAPS program to return to civilian-run program

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Mayor Richard M. Daley, who will leave office in May, has given Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy Director Ronald Holt a mandate to redevelop the popular city agency back to its original format.

Mayor Richard M. Daley, who will leave office in May, has given Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy Director Ronald Holt a mandate to redevelop the popular city agency back to its original format.

“CAPS was never intended to be ran by the Chicago police but by civilians,” Daley said of the program at City Hall news conference. “(It) remains the foundation of our philosophy that when police and the community work together, we can better protect our streets, our families and our children from the gang bangers and drug dealers and their gun violence.”

Holt, a Chicago police officer on leave from the department, said it is important for the longevity of the program to return it to its roots.

“The redevelopment of CAPS is to make it more community-driven as the Chicago Police Department will function as facilitators for training, resources and information relative to the needs of the community, as the CAPS program was originally planned and designed,” Holt told the Defender.

He added that CAPS, created in 1993, is a city agency that brings the Chicago police, community members and organizations, and other city agencies together to identify and solve neighborhood crime problems.

Additionally, its mission is to foster increased awareness among Chicago residents, enhance partnerships with community residents, and institutional stakeholders, police and other city agencies to address crime.

Input from community organizations is a vital part of CAPS.

The Chesterfield Community Council, a Chicago non-profit community organization, works closely with CAPS.

“The Chesterfield community covers 87th Street and State Street to 93rd Street and Dauphin and we work with CAPS to ensure safety and awareness of criminal activity for residents,” said Eli Washington, chairman of the Chesterfield Community Council. “Our goal for working with CAPS is to build a stronger relationship between the community and officers.”

On the far South Side CAPS’ involvement with the community has not only made residents feel safer but also closer to Chicago police, said Beatrice Winfrey, a community organizer for the Developing Communities Project, a non-profit community organization.

In September 2009 an honors student at Christian Fenger Academy High School in the Roseland community was brutality beaten to death. The senseless killing outraged the community who demanded more protection from the police, according to Winfrey.

“And CAPS responded by beefing up police patrols and following up on tips from the community while keeping their identity unknown,” she added. “We feel safer but not complete. (Overall though) CAPS have made a difference in the Roseland and West Pullman communities.”

Ideally though, Washington said CAPS should spend more time and money mailing reminders to residents about the meetings and automated calls as well.

Making communities safer by using neighborhood friendly police officers is a bedrock principle of CAPS. But last year Daley had many officers reassigned away from CAPS in an effort to make the agency more community driven.

According to Holt, there are currently 75 police officers working with CAPS, nearly half the amount in April when he said there were 150 officers. And two police officers and one sergeant are currently assigned to each of the city’s 25 police districts on behalf of CAPS.

So to make up for the lost police manpower Holt said he is looking to recruit more civilians to volunteer.

“This is all in an effort to infuse and inspire the various communities and neighborhoods to take ownership and responsibility for the areas (where) they reside and do business in with the major focus of reducing chronic crime and public violence,” explained Holt.

He added that people should get involved with CAPS “because it provides a more direct in-road to city services, which (builds) a stronger bridge of cooperation and trust between the Chicago Police Department and the community.”

CAPS budget was slightly raised for 2011 to $4.772 million from $4.732 million, according to Glen Brooks Jr., a spokesman for CAPS. Last year’s budget was spent entirely on personnel salaries including $145,476 for Holt’s annual salary and $1.3 million for contractual services and materials.

And along with a budget increase CAPS will also hire six more employees to bump up its personnel staff to 60 from 54.

Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender

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