The City of Chicago has a new weapon in the fight against crime — and that new weapon is you, the community. A new partnership between police and community is the foundation of Chicago’s own philosophy of community policing, known as CAPS — Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy.

Community policing has become a popular crime-fighting strategy across the country, but there is no one definition of community policing or one specific way of carrying it out. From the time he was appointed in April 1992, Police Superintendent Matt L. Rodriguez advanced a strategy of community policing that is specific to Chicago. CAPS is a unique philosophy that borrows from the experiences of other cities, but also breaks important new ground in meeting the needs of the Chicago Police Department and the Chicago community.

What makes CAPS innovative is that it brings the police, the community, and other City agencies together to identify and solve neighborhood crime problems, rather than simply react to their symptoms after the fact. Problem solving at the neighborhood level is supported by a variety of strategies, including neighborhood-based beat officers; regular Beat Community Meetings involving police and residents; extensive training for both police and community; more efficient use of City services that impact crime; and new technology to help police and residents target crime hot spots.

With CAPS, police officers continue to enforce the law and respond rapidly to serious crimes and life-threatening emergencies. But CAPS recognizes that the police alone cannot solve the City’s crime problems. It takes a combined effort of police, community, and City government working together.

Implementation of CAPS began in April 1993 with the official roll-out in five of the City’s 25 police districts: Englewood (7th), Marquette (10th), Austin (15th), Morgan Park (22nd), and Rogers Park (24th). These prototype districts are diverse in terms of their demographics, economics, crime problems, and levels of community organization. As such, they provided a valuable laboratory for testing and improving the CAPS model before it was expanded Citywide.

Implementation of CAPS in the other 20 police districts began in 1994, and the strategy is now operational in all of Chicago’s neighborhoods. The five original prototype districts continue to serve as a laboratory for testing new ideas and new technology.

CAPS has been recognized as one of the most ambitious community policing initiatives in the United States. It has been cited as a model by numerous national experts, including officials at the U.S. Department of Justice and academic authorities on community policing. Management guru Tom Peters featured the Chicago Police Department and CAPS in his latest business video, Service With Soul.

By opening up the dialogue between police and community, CAPS is producing a number of important success stories at the neighborhood level. Across the City, the CAPS partnership is tackling serious crime problems, as well as those neighborhood conditions that breed crime — conditions such as abandoned buildings and vehicles, vacant lots, drug houses, and graffiti.

Together, we are working to identify and solve neighborhood crime problems, block by block, and to improve the quality of life in Chicago’s neighborhoods.