The Chicago (IL) Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) is a community-based program established to transform policing efforts into an efficient five-step process for law enforcement. The goal of CAPS is to solve neighborhood crime problems, rather than merely to react to their symptomatic consequences.
The program was developed by the Chicago Police Department (CPD) in 1993. The program began in five policing districts but expanded to encompass the entire city of Chicago after a testing phase. Program development included the collaborative efforts of each district’s commanders, senior department executives, and civilian planners.
Program activities consist of law enforcement’s concentrating more intensively on the community and on prevention, while rotating with other teams that handle lower-priority and rapid response calls.
A five-step process was created for CPD to implement CAPS. The process consists of 1) identifying and prioritizing problems, 2) analyzing problems, 3) strategizing designs to deal with problems, 4) implementing a plan, and 5) evaluating effectiveness. Meetings with law enforcement and community advisory committees happen on a monthly basis; extensive trainings with both groups occur regularly. Efficient use of city services and new technology also are components to help target crime in each area. For example, the Mayor’s Liquor License Commission, the Department of Streets and Sanitation, and the Department of Buildings collaborate to manage small crime before they become larger issues (CPD 1998).
Community commitment and involvement are another main component of CAPS. Civic education, media ads, billboards, brochures, festival booths, and rallies are being used to promote awareness of CAPS throughout Chicago neighborhoods.
Law enforcement, community residents, local government, and assigned lieutenants from CPD are all important in implementing CAPS. Collaboratively, all parties are part of the identification, implementation, and resolution process.
Kim and Skogan (2003) found that 15 out of the 33 beats (45.5 percent) that received the Chicago (IL) Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) were considered successful cases. Of those 15 intervention beats with successful outcomes, 8 beats saw a decrease in crime, while the comparison beats saw increases in crime. The crime rates also decreased for six other intervention beats, while the crime in the comparison beats remained unchanged. Finally, one intervention beat had crime rates that remained unchanged, while the comparison beats saw an increase in crime.
The results also showed that there were some unsuccessful cases. For example, in 2 out of the 33 beats (6 percent) that received the CAPS intervention the crime rates actually increased, while the crime rates remained unchanged or decreased in the comparison beats.
Calls to 911
The researchers also found that when comparing the average number of 911 calls before and after the intervention, 13 out of 25 beats (52 percent) that received the CAPS intervention saw successful outcomes. Of the 13 intervention beats, 5 beats saw a decrease in crime rates, while the rates increased for the comparison beats. The crime rates also decreased for four other intervention beats but remained unchanged for the comparison beats. Finally, four intervention beats had crime rates that remained unchanged, while the rates increased for the comparison beats.
Again, the results showed that there were some unsuccessful cases. For example, in 3 out of the 25 beats (12 percent) that received the CAPS intervention the crime rates increased, while the rates remained unchanged for the comparison beats.