CAPS Neighborhood Watch Program

An overflow crowd attended Monday’s meeting on the new CAPS Neighborhood Watch Program. CAPS Sgt. Shawn Sisk explained the program to attentive, focused residents, stressing that Neighborhood Watch will work only if its volunteers become strong partners with local police officers and the 50th Ward aldermanic office. To do that, volunteers will need the commitment, positive energy, optimism, cooperative attitude, and time necessary to make the program successful.

Sgt. Shawn Sisk of the 24th District CAPS Office at the February 6, 2017, Neighborhood Watch Program organizational meeting.

Sgt. Shawn Sisk of the 24th District CAPS Office at the February 6, 2017, West Ridge Neighborhood Watch Program organizational meeting.

Volunteers will help to identify questionable activities and situations that put residents and property at risk by walking or riding bikes in teams throughout the neighborhood, noting but not acting on potential problems and issues that are properly dealt with by the police or the ward office. Witnessing a crime in progress, for example, warrants a call to 911, whereas noticing piles of garbage that could house rats would mean a 311 report or call to the ward office.

Sisk also made it clear that volunteers, who must be age 21 or older, would not have any police authority and must not represent themselves as cops. Volunteers themselves must obey the law and may not carry weapons, even if they have concealed carry permits. Volunteers may not use police scanners, take photos or videos, or chase after wrongdoers. They may walk or ride bikes, but vehicles are not permitted. They can bring their dogs along, although the kids are better left at home. Any member of the community is welcome to join the Neighborhood Watch, which does not practice or tolerate any form of discrimination.

Each volunteer will wear a bright yellow jacket emblazoned with the Neighborhood Watch emblem. Jackets will be paid for by the police and the ward office, not the volunteers. Sgt. Sisk is wearing the jacket in the photo above.

I had to leave early so I missed the discussions and audience Q&A led by the beat facilitators representing Beats 2411, 2412, and 2413. For more information or to become part of the Neighborhood Watch, please contact the CAPS office or your Beat Facilitator:

24th District Community Policing Office: 312/744-6321 or caps24.org

Beat 2411 (Kedzie to Ridge, Pratt to Howard)
Beat Faclitator Richard Concaildi – richconcaildi@aol.com

Beat 2412 (Kedzie to Ridge, Pratt to Devon)
Beat Faclitator Avy Meyers- avy@ureach.com

Beat 2413 (Kedzie to Ridge, Devon to Peterson)
Beat Facilitator: beat2413@caps24.org

 

 

 

 

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7 thoughts on “CAPS Neighborhood Watch Program

  1. Follies, you missed the disruption of the meeting that exploded right after you departed Monday evening.

    A woman whom I didn’t recognize arrived late, and led in a contingent of about 10 twenty-somethings. She triggered the free-for-all when she shouted after the first couple Q&A attempts, “I’m not going to wait to be called on.” Then she launched into an accusation that the assembled neighbors and police representatives were using code words to cover up their racist, anti-immigrant, anti-refugee plan to build a wall around West Ridge to keep out people who didn’t look like audience members.

    She characterized the effort by neighbors who would participate in the yellow-jacket watch program as people who want to spy on their neighbors, turn them into the police for perceived or real violations of the law, and otherwise keep “black and brown people” off their streets.

    She said that she didn’t want any sign in her window that warned, “We call police” — signs that the CPD made available to pick up at the meeting. She would put her own “We DON’T call police” sign in her window.

    Amid audience groans and shouts of of “sit down” and “shut up,” she was joined occasionally by members of her retinue who asserted that the 80-plus people in the audience “don’t look like Rogers Park,” because insufficient numbers of African-Americans, latinos, refugees, undocumented immigrants and members of other aggrieved ethnic groups were not obvious. And she indicated too many members of other presumably privileged ethnic groups were obvious.

    Sgt. Sisk, Rich Concaildi and other CAPS volunteers did their best to soothe things by noting freedom of speech and similar guarantees, but to no avail. My wife and I departed at 8:03 p.m. when Sgt. Sisk declared the meeting adjourned. As we walked home, a block west of the IBP cultural center on Lunt, we could hear the shouting continue.

    Even before that confrontation, the meeting was tense. Once CAPS members ceased their presentations, which bordered on lecture for the first 30 minutes, audience members wanted to know what benefit the neighborhood-watch program could produce. Several members asked publicly while others talked to their seatmates and expressed a desire to know West Ridge crime rates for different infractions, including theft, property damage, etc. Then, after the neighborhood watch program was in effect for a period of months, a comparison with new crime statistics would indicate whether the watch program was successful or having any impact.

    However, Sgt. Sisk and other CAPS participants dodged that request for information, and instead stressed to the point of audience annoyance the psychological benefits of a neighborhood watch program on the whole neighborhood.

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    • Good question. The answer is that photographing or videotaping could be seen as provocative to the subject (see above comment), leading to a confrontation. And confrontation is exactly what the the program seeks to avoid. The advice at the meeting was: don’t be shy about calling 911. “Actively loitering” is the operative tactic.

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  2. I was not there, nor did I know about the Watch. I can understand how it could be beneficial, after having spent five years (back in the 90s) trying to get help quieting down an inebriated neighbor family with shouting, honking, hostile guests in the middle of the night. (The police did what they could; finally, city lawyers helped us.) I think that when seedy characters know a community is alert and willing to be active, it makes that neighborhood more risky for those characters.
    That said, I am concerned after hearing a mom on WBEZ say that her son was getting questioned whenever there was a crime in the neighborhood since the neighborhood watch started. Those unconscious (or conscious) biases may have caused “watchers” to assume a brown-skinned boy was a suspect. That has to be addressed and stopped. We can’t let that go on. So how do we do it?
    Seems like neighbors getting to know neighbors might be a good thing—block parties, gatherings, neighborhood concerts. We have Indian Boundary Cultural Center which could be a great gathering place. But the park district has to relax its liability insurance requirements of people who, like me, offer to do a free concert there (paying my own musicians) for the community, but are stopped by the requirement to provide their own $500 yearly policy and $100 per event certificate to cover the park district’s liability. It becomes prohibitive. This is one example where the community should come first.
    Along with the jackets, perhaps we need to make a fund for social activities that are inclusive of any WRP residents, and make sure they happen.

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    • Thanks for your comment. The incidents Ms. Viets alleges happened to her son took place several years ago, and are not connected with the Neighborhood Watch. There is absolutely no evidence of any racist or prejudicial behavior by the members of the Watch but Ms. Viets points to the killing of Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch member in Florida as indicative of the kind of thing that could happen here. I find that doubtful. Your concerns about the park district’s insurance requirements are shared by others who want to use the parks for public events. Perhaps there’s a solution to this that’s more obvious than we realize–I’ll get back to you on this. What kind of concert?

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  3. Those of us who attended the organizational meetings and picked up yellow (not orange) jackets were told time and again: don’t take photos, don’t try to stop suspected illegal activity, don’t engage the individuals. That’s what we have a police department for. Taking a photo of someone who doesn’t WANT to be photographed is asking for trouble.

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