Some of the Austin residents who attended last month’s Beat 1524 meeting say they’re relieved the Chicago Police Department’s nearly 20-year-old community policing program won’t be ending, though some worry about how it will be scaled back on the West Side.
Chicago Police Sgt. Glenn White and Officer Al Townsend reassured residents at the Sept. 21 meeting held at the Westside Health Authority that the police will still have a presence throughout the city and in Austin.
“I was glad to hear that the program will continue to exist,” said Austin resident Cynthia Weaver.
Some of the 20 people at the Beat 1524 meeting say they’d like more officers to be on the streets. But given the city’s financial troubles, it’s not likely that too many more cops will be hired. “You can knock on heaven’s door, but nothing will change,” said Sgt. White.
The officers who are moved from the CAPS program will join the police on the streets, which some residents found reassuring. At each of the city’s 25 districts, there are about 300 officers; that includes patrol officers as well as officers working in the station. The 15th District has five CAPS officers.
Citywide, about 200 police officers will move out of the CAPS program, and residents will need to do the community policing work.
“That’s where the manpower is coming from,” said Officer Townsend.
The police reported that well over 1,000 arrests are being made each month in the Austin area, accounting for over 12,000 arrests per year. Last month, the most arrests made were for simple battery and domestic battery. Not far behind was theft.
While he applauds the work police do in his neighborhood, George Green, 61, and a member of the Power Peace block club, worries there are too few officers.
“There’s just not enough police officers, and their response is slow,” said Green.
Townsend responded by saying the police can’t do everything, noting the financially strapped city doesn’t have money to add more men and women to the 13,500 member Chicago Police Department.
“If the money’s not there, it’s not there,” he said.
It costs $70,000 to hire and train one officer, according to Townsend and White. There are about 150 new recruits in the police academy, but in any given month, Chicago loses about 40 officers due to retirement, illness and the like.
Some residents, like 65-year-old Edie Jacobs, say they’re tired of living in fear.
Jacobs, who lives in the 900 block of North Lockwood Avenue, says the gang bangers and drug dealers make it hard for her and her neighbors to spend time outside.
“Sometimes, I’m afraid to go to my own porch,” she said.