Block by block … beat by beat … step by step.

Problems are identified, and problems are solved. It’s pure CAPS: residents, police, and City services working as partners in the problem-solving process.

On this special episode of Chicago CrimeWatch, entitled “Block by Block,” viewers are taken on a guided tour through the CAPS five-step problem-solving process. This episode explains the five steps to problem solving, and shows how effective problem solving can be when police and residents go through the process together.

The success of problem solving is told through the story of Gill Park — and how residents and police on Beat 2324 used the five-step process to reclaim the park from gang bangers and drug dealers and, thus, bring back the families and children.

Step 1: Identify and Prioritize the Problem

The first step in the problem-solving process is to identify and prioritize the problem. On Beat 2324, Gill Park was identified as the top priority during beat community meetings and community training sessions. Everyone, it seemed, knew Gill Park was a problem.

Step 2: Analyze the Problem

Using a device called the Crime Triangle, police and residents then analyzed the Gill Park problem from three perspectives: offenders, victims, and location. They developed specific information on gang members in the park and on those who were buying and selling drugs. The victims were identified as the families who could no longer use the park, plus nearby property owners whose buildings were devalued by the criminal presence at the park. Regarding the location, residents analyzed several problems with the park–from poor lighting and overgrown shrubbery to an overall design that provided ideal hiding places for illegal activity. “As soon as you saw the back of the park, you could see it looked like it was designed for drug dealing,” says Jackie McKay of the Friends of the Parks organization.
Planting in Gill Park

Step 3: Design Strategies

gillpark_1Based on their analysis of the problem, police and community developed a number of strategies to address the offender and location sides of the Crime Triangle. To target offenders, foot patrols would be instituted at strategic times, curfew and loitering laws would be energetically enforced, and neighbors adjacent to the park would keep a watchful eye and report suspicious activity. On the location side, residents and City crews decided to get together to totally redesign the park–to make it less conducive to criminal activity and more conducive to recreation.

Step 4: Implement Strategies

This is the “just do it” aspect of problem solving. With Gill Park, police, community, and City agencies all did their parts. The community, in particular, stepped forward to provide architectural services and raise money for the park redesign. “They were looking for a new way to redo the park so it was safer, and basically we came up with a theme to put in a new sports field, a baseball diamond,” says local architect Mike Eichorn.

Step 5: Evaluate and Acknowledge Success

During this step, all of those involved review their successes. Which strategies worked? What challenges remain? In Gill Park, the signs of success were everywhere. “A lot of people over here are using the park now,” says resident Hakeem Durojaiye. “It just didn’t seem possible last year.”

As the Gill Park story illustrates, there are no prerequisites for becoming a problem solver. No experience is needed, and you do not have to be a community leader. You just have to be a good citizen and care enough to want to make a difference in your neighborhood. The five-step problem-solving process enables ordinary people to do extraordinary things.