We found some interesting properties with the help of our Realtor. It’s now time to investigate their surroundings in detail, to start the serious research.
If anyone would ask us what our most useful research tool was, we could answer it in a heartbeat: beat meetings! – If you don’t live in Chicago, or you’re not involved in your community, you might ask “What are Beat meetings?”
“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.”
Source: What is CAPS?
In April of 1993 Chicago started in earnest with the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy, in short CAPS (for more information, see also ClearPath). The principle idea was to develop and grow a partnership between police and community to increase the efficiency of community policing and crime reduction. The city of Chicago is organized into police districts (twenty five in total). Each district is organized into three sectors, while each sector is subdivided into police beats. Each police beat has a community meeting once a month, where a CAPS officer, beat officers and typically a sergeant sit down with the residents of the beat to discuss community policing, crime statistics, crime hot spots and to develop a plan of action.
We attended beat meetings religiously for the properties we were interested in. It is amazing how much we learned in such little time! We got a detailed picture of community interest and involvement. Some beat meetings were very poorly attended, while others were buzzing with people, activity and opinions. We learned about crime activity levels and hot spots. It is amazing how localized some of the problem areas were. We observed how the officers worked with the community to target crime hot spots, relying on the observation and reports from residents. We learned that “the most interesting time of the year” is when the weather gets warm after a long winter and cabin fever reigns.
It was and is a privilege to meet and talk to our potential future neighbors. Some of them had been living in the neighborhood for years, even decades . That wealth of knowledge was absolutely priceless to us. This was the most fun and effective way to learn about the short and long history of a neighborhood.
Same for the officers and sergeants, some of them long-serving veterans in the community. They were always – and I mean always – happy to talk to us and share the historic ups and downs in the crime development and control. Looking at crime statistics online is one thing. But having an active duty officer walk you through the details of a crime hot spot gave us the perspective we were looking for. And if some of the details were not at the officer’s fingertip, they called us within a day with the answers in hand. Talk about excellent customer service and dedication to the community – we found it in the beat meetings. Thank you!