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Crowded Public Safety Meeting in Wake of Police District Closure

By Alisa Hauser | January 11, 2013 10:02am | Updated on January 13, 2013 8:32pm

WICKER PARK — At a grassroots public safety meeting attended by more than 60 residents Wednesday, a police sergeant appearing on volunteered time declared that "CAPS is here to stay."

Near West District Sgt. Juan Clas's proclamation eluded to Mayor Emanuel and Police Supt. Garry McCarthy's pledge earlier this week to "revitalize community policing" in Chicago.

Though he had no concrete stats to share on whether crime has increased or decreased since the Wood District police station closed on Dec. 19, Clas reported  there were three recent burglaries in the area, and two suspects arrested at Augusta Boulevard and Hermitage Avenue were in custody.

Clas praised Near West District Commander Melissa Staples for having "an open door policy" and encouraged "positive loitering" and communications with the police department.

After sharing some safety tips, Clas answered questions from residents, who'd heard about the meeting on social media sites like Everyblock, fliers and the Ukrainian Village Neighborhood Watch Facebook Page.

Steve Niketopoulos, 35, a producer of educational TV shows, started the Facebook page in August of 2011 after moving to Ukrainian Village from Lincoln Square. He encouraged attendees of the meeting to add their numbers to a phone tree he was developing to keep residents informed about what is happening around their homes.

After the meeting, Luke McGlasson, 38, said he was "surprised by the turnout" and thought the meeting was "very informative."

McGlasson said he wished there was data available on what has changed since the Wood District police station was shuttered, but his wife figured it was "too soon to tell."

Neighborhood activist Anne Shaw was among the attendees of a final 13th District CAPS meeting in early December when residents vowed to take action toward keeping the lines of communication with police open.

Shaw arranged the meeting after talking with CAPS facilitators, Clas and bar owner Joe Hathaway, who offered to host the meeting at Innjoy, 2051 W. Division St.

"We had no CAPS meetings this month and this is a time when people need immediate information," Shaw said.

Volunteer CAPS facilitator Molly Murray said she was happy with the strong turnout.

"A meeting like this crosses boundaries. It's very informal. People, I don't know why, sometimes feel intimidated going into a police station for a CAPS meeting," Murray said.