Beat community meetings are a key part of the CAPS strategy of partnerships and problem solving.
These meetings, held on all 279 police beats in the City, provide a regular opportunity for police officers, residents, and other community stakeholders to exchange information, identify and prioritize problems, and begin developing solutions to those problems.
This on-line brochure provides a number of tips for getting the most from your beat community meetings.
The Chicago Police Department’s Education and Training Division also offers problem-solving training for the community. To schedule training for your beat, contact the Community Education Section at 312-746-8310 (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
What Are Beat Meetings … And Why Are They Important?
Beat community meetings are regular meetings held on all 285 police beats in Chicago. Every beat is required to meet at least quarterly, although the vast majority of beats meet every month or every other month. (Beat meeting schedules are published on the this website under EVENTS, or are available by calling the City of Chicago Information Hotline at 3-1-1.)
The primary purpose of the beat community meeting is to allow beat residents, other community stakeholders and police to discuss chronic problems on the beat and to engage in problem solving using the CAPS five-step problem-solving process. Beat community meetings provide an opportunity for police and community residents to exchange information about conditions in the neighborhood, to identify crime and disorder problems, and to develop strategies to combat those problems. The meeting also provides an opportunity for police and community to get to know one another.
Who Conducts Beat Meetings?
Beat community meetings are hosted by the Chicago Police Department and are usually conducted in one of three ways:
- By a team consisting of a resident beat facilitator (a designated community leader) and a beat officer.
- By one or more beat facilitators.
- By one or more beat officers.
Option 1 is usually considered ideal.
Beat meetings and problem solving are most effective when they include a broad range of community stakeholders: residents, business owners, and representatives from local schools, churches and neighborhood organizations. In addition, beat officers representing all three watches, plus a sergeant, are expected to attend beat community meetings. Neighborhood Relations personnel, tactical and gang tactical officers, detectives, and other Police Department members may attend beat community meetings, as appropriate.
Always Have A Beat Meeting Agenda
Every beat community meeting should follow an agenda. And, at a minimum, every meeting agenda should cover the following items:
- Welcome and introduction of participants.
- Feedback on progress made on problems since the last meeting.
- Discuss whether the current problem-solving strategies seem to be working, whether they need to be modified, or whether the problem seems to have been sufficiently reduced or eliminated to justify moving on to new problems.
- Discussion of current crime conditions and new problems.
- Beat team officers present information about general crime conditions on the beat.
- New problems (which are chronic in nature) are identified.
- Participants determine whether any newly identified problem is significant enough to be added to the Beat Plan. The Beat Plan is a form used by the beat team to keep track of problem-solving activities on the beat. Generally, the beat team and community will be limited in the number of problems they can work on at any one time. Therefore, the group needs to prioritize which problems will be worked on.
- Development of strategies and coordination of responsibilities
- Because there will not be sufficient time at the meeting to analyze each strategy in detail, it is important that a community contact person be identified. This person will take responsibility for working with the beat team and other interested residents to analyze the problem in more detail, develop strategies, and organize and coordinate the community’s involvement.
- Next meeting date.
- Announce the date, time and place for the next beat community meeting.
- Schedule working groups for ongoing problem solving. Most of the work on problem-solving strategies will take place outside the beat community meeting. Therefore, residents and police must be prepared to work on these chronic problems in between beat meetings.
Become An Informed Decision-Maker and Problem-Solver
Most of us relate to the crime and disorder problems that are most visible to us. Maybe it’s the abandoned cars or parking-related problems on our block. Or the loitering or street drug dealing in the local park. But many of the crime problems on the beat tend to be less visible — unless we or our family or friends have been a victim.
It is critical, however, that CAPS participants be informed decision-makers.
At each beat community meeting, ask the beat team to make a presentation on the current crime conditions on the beat. This presentation should include the distribution of “Top Ten” charts and/or crime maps from your district’s ICAM system (Information Collection for Automated Mapping). This information will ensure that you and your neighbors have a handle on the entire crime picture before you decide which specific problems to address.
Once you become aware of all the problems on your beat, you may have additional information that would be helpful to residents and police as they analyze the problems and work on solutions.
Focus on the Chronic Problems
In determining what problems to discuss at the meeting, ask the following questions about each problem:
- Is the problem of concern to a number of residents and the beat team?
- (Answer should be yes.)
- Is the problem likely to go away on its own?
- (Answer should be no.)
- Does the problem persist or return despite traditional law enforcement efforts?
- (Answer should be yes.)
- Is the problem something that community, police and City agencies can impact with available resources?
- (Answer should be yes.)
Only those problems that meet these four criteria are considered to be “chronic” — and, therefore, serious enough to be included on the Beat Plan (the form that documents problem-solving activity on the beat). You might spend some time at beat community meetings discussing other, less serious issues that do not meet these criteria. However, to be effective at problem solving, you should focus your attention and resources on the chronic problems on the beat.
Making The Meeting Space Conducive To Problem-Solving
The primary reason for holding beat community meetings is for beat officers and the community to engage in joint problem solving. Therefore, it is critical that the meeting room be conducive to these activities.
Here are some guidelines to consider as you work with beat team members to establish a good meeting environment:
Whenever possible, the meeting should be held in a location on the beat, with convenient parking nearby. The location should be accessible to persons with disabilities.
Some beats have found that holding their meetings in the same location, on the same day each month (for example, the second Tuesday), can ensure a steady core of community participants. Other beats, however, have found that moving their meetings around helps attract new community members.
The meeting place should be one that residents are comfortable coming to.
The room should be large enough to comfortably accommodate all participants.
Seating should be arranged to encourage discussion by all those present. Movable chairs, arranged in a horseshoe pattern, are ideal.
Discussion of problems should include both residents and police.
A flip chart, chalkboard or other mechanism for recording the group’s problem identification or analysis should be available.