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CAPS using Twitter, smartphones to combat Chicago violence

Monday, July 08, 2013

Chicago police announced new steps aimed at reducing the violence Monday, including an effort to modernize CAPS, the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy.

Police are turning to Twitter to modernize the program.

It will start in three police districts, and if it does well, there are plans to expand it citywide. The three districts, which include neighborhoods like Englewood, Garfield Park, the Gold Coast and Old Town, will get Twitter updates on beat meetings and crime alerts.

Chicago police have begun using three Twitter handles to share information: @ChicagoCAPS07, @ChicagoCAPS11 and @ChicagoCAPS18.

Also, two other tools are rolling out to help police solve and prevent crime. Residents can now send tips to police via text message by typing 274637, or CRIMES, in the "To" field, and 911 callers with camera-equipped smartphones will be able to send pictures or video of a crime so that police can literally see the incident to which they are responding.

Residents will be able to send the messages, pictures and video anonymously.

"As a police officer, the more information you have, the better prepared you are to intervene in an incdent or to catch a criminal. If we have a picture of a criminal, and we're approaching the scene, we might catch the guy two blocks away," Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said a press conference Wednesday.

The Chicago Police Department is also unveiling a more user-friendly website at ChicagoPolice.org to help residents find information easier.

Police also say they plan to let residents participate in beat meetings online from the comfort of their homes. They say they will be figuring out exactly how to make that happen in the coming weeks.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says these steps are the next phase in breathing new life into CAPS, which, since the 1990s, was plagued with budget cuts and criticism that it was an expensive political tool that was ineffective.

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