By AARON GETTINGER
There were no murders in Hyde Park-Kenwood last year, and the Chicago Police reported that homicides declined 48% across the 2nd District in 2019, from 31 to 16, in Jan. 29-30 sector meetings for the beats covering the area. Shootings declined 26% (96 to 71), robberies 29% (494 to 353) and motor vehicle thefts 12% (471 to 415). The number of narcotic arrests doubled.
They were good numbers for officers Colleen Carcione and Denise Gathings to present at the end of their run as the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) beat liaison officers for the 2nd District, which runs along the south lakefront between 31st and 75th streets. For five years, they have presented together at most CAPS meetings for Hyde Park-Kenwood and will begin working on the department’s outreach to local seniors in February.
It is a time of reform for the Chicago Police Department. On Jan. 30, Interim Superintendent Charlie Beck announced a restructuring that will put officers and detectives from specialized units to individual districts.
The development comes alongside continuing adoption of the consent decree, a court-mandated reforming of the entire department, that the department entered with the Illinois Attorney General after the police murder of Laquan McDonald. The 2nd District’s drafting of a community strategic plan, due out in February, is among its terms.
“There’s more community involvement, and the bosses are kind of listening to the officers. We’re working together as a whole,” Gathings said. CAPS liaisons used to just meet with district sergeants to discuss their monthly meetings where citizens share law enforcement concerns with the officers; now, she said, aldermen join them.
Carcione said staying on the path the department is currently on will get more community buy-in, input and response. She said the community strategic plan and the officer-civilian interaction that lead to it “are great things to have.”
“And I think the numbers show that,” she continued. “Crime’s going down.”
In their new roles, Gathings and Carcione will be conducting workshops and planning recreational activities both at the police station and in the neighborhoods.
CAPS Sgt. Yolanda Walton said she is happy the two are excited to move into their new roles.
“When this position became available, the ‘dynamic duo,’ they jumped, because they love working with people,” she said. “I’m happy about it. As long as they’re happy, I’m happy.”
Gathings, an amateur playwright, intends to continue writing and producing plays when she retires in 2021. She is currently working on a project about the disappeared women on the South and West sides.
“It’s going to be about the community, the community being able to come together and keep their eyes open and showing how easy it is to shut your eyes and let things happen,” she said.
Officer Candis Smith will replace Carcione and Gathings as the 2nd District’s liaison officer.
The next CAPS meeting for Beat 233, which covers Washington Park and the area between Hyde Park Boulevard, 55th Street and Woodlawn Avenue, is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 6, at the Washington Park fieldhouse, 5531 S. King Drive. The meeting for beats 234 and 235, which cover the rest of Hyde Park, are scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 13, at Congregation Rodfei Zedek, 5200 S. Hyde Park Blvd. And the meeting for Beat 222, which covers Kenwood, will meet at the Kennicott Park fieldhouse, 4434 S. Lake Park Ave., on Tuesday, Feb. 11. All meetings start at 6:30 p.m. All meetings start at 6:30 p.m.
The Chicago Police community meeting on policy nearest to Hyde Park-Kenwood will be on Wednesday, Feb. 5, from 6-9 p.m. at Kennedy-King College in Englewood, 740 W. 63rd St.
The local CAPS office has upcoming events scheduled: a screening of the 2019 film “Harriet” on Feb 10 at 11 a.m. in the Mandrake Park fieldhouse, 3858 S. Cottage Grove Ave.; a senior empowerment workshop on Feb. 12 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the 2nd District police station, 5101 S. Wentworth Ave.; and a Black History Month celebration for seniors and youth at Mandrake Park on Feb. 25 from 5-6:30 p.m.