BUCKTOWN — Dozens of residents packed into the Holstein Park field house Wednesday night to talk to Shakespeare (14th) Police District officers about crime in their communities.
But rather than throw out questions about specific crimes, which is what happens at most community policing meetings, residents talked big-picture issues.
For the first time, the Chicago Police Department is teaming up with residents to craft “crime reduction strategic plans” in an effort to make lasting improvements to community policing in the city.
The Shakespeare Police District, which covers parts of Wicker Park, Bucktown, Humboldt Park and Logan Square, kicked off the process Wednesday night at the field house at 2200 N. Oakley Ave.
Neighbors assembled into rotating small groups, led by police officers, to answer broad questions like, “What are the key problems that you would like the police to address, in collaboration with the community, this year?” and, “What existing community activities would you like to see the police officers participate in?”
In response to each question, residents threw out ideas and criticisms, which the officers wrote on big sheets of paper and then posted up around the field house for everyone to read.
The format is a first for the district and the department as a whole.
Glen Brooks, director of community policing for the Chicago Police Department, said the recently installed federal consent decree — a plan to ensure reforms in a department beset with problems — is the driving force behind the initiative.
But Shakespeare Police District Cmdr. Fabian A. Saldana said the initiative isn’t any less important because of its ties to the consent decree.
“Even if the consent decree didn’t exist, we should move forward with this format anyway because I think it’s a good thing for the community to get everybody on board trying to solve problems,” Saldana said.
Sgt. Adam Henkels agreed, saying, “Beat meetings are nice, but you don’t get this interaction.”
“Instead of us just saying this is what happened in your community, they’re actually interacting with each other. So it’s really nice,” Henkels said.
Maria Cabanas, 48, was one of roughly 75 residents who showed up to Wednesday night’s meeting.
Cabanas said she wants to see more foot patrols out in Logan Square, where she’s lived for 40 years.
“Some [officers] should attend to the big things and other [officers] should attend to the small things,” she said.
While in the small groups, many residents said they want to see officers get out of their squad cars more and get to know the community on a deeper level, which they suspect will help prevent crime in the future. One resident suggested officers set aside an afternoon to visit with families who identify themselves as willing by putting a tag on their door.
Humboldt Park resident Hector Villafuerte said he was pleasantly surprised by the conversations.
“I think it was good. At first I came in here close-minded. … But we interacted with people from different communities. I think we need more of this,” Villafuerte said.
The district plans to incorporate all of the feedback into a draft of the plan, which will then be up for review at a second community meeting in April. More details will be announced in the coming weeks.
Do stories like this matter to you? Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.