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More than 100 participants joined two separate Zoom discussions hosted by the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy and the Chicago Police Department (CPD) last month.

Designed to solicit feedback, gain insight and generate ideas for developing 2021 CPD Strategic Plans for districts throughout Chicago, the “Community Conversations” connect members of the police force directly with the people they protect.

“It’s not a meeting—it’s a conversation,” Sgt. Christoph Schenk said before the start of the 18th District discussion on Oct. 8. “The department will not be successful unless it engages in true partnerships with the community it serves.”

After dividing attendees into ten virtual “breakout rooms,” officers posed questions and took notes from Community Policing HQ Headquarters, 3510 S. Michigan Ave., while small groups of residents shared their experiences and ideas.

Neighborhoods within the 18th District include Streeterville, the Magnificent Mile, River North, the Gold Coast and Lincoln Park. Neighborhoods within the 1st District include New Eastside, the Loop, Printers Row and the South Loop.

In both districts, motorcycle noise and drag racing were cited as major causes of concern, grief and frustration.

Other problems, according to 18th District residents, included loud gatherings of people drinking in the street, loitering, prostitution, drug dealing, and an increase in homelessness. At least one person mentioned that they were afraid to go out at night due to the activity. Another said gunfire had been heard near one of the neighborhood hotels.

Residents of the 1st District said problems include burglary, robbery, shoplifting, aggressive panhandling and rowdy groups of Divvy bike riders. One person was concerned about large groups of maskless customers waiting to enter restaurants.

The most common advice for police was to increase the number of officers on foot patrols within the neighborhoods. One person suggested creating a police ambassador program to pairs officers with residents. Another said an information system to inform residents of nearby activity would be helpful.

After reviewing and discussing the information, representatives from both districts will summarize and explain next steps to residents during follow up Community Conversations. The 1st District's followup conversation takes place Nov. 17 from 6 to 8 p.m. (click here to register). The 18th District's followup is scheduled for Nov. 19 from 6-8 p.m. (click here to register).

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