1998 Citywide Beat Meeting Observation Methodology Report

Joel F. Knutson and Wesley G. Skogan

This paper provides documentation for a field observation study of beat community meetings in Chicago. Beat meetings are one of the cornerstones of Chicago's community policing program. The city has 25 police districts, and they in turn are divided into 279 small police beats. Teams of 8-10 officers from all watches are assigned to each beat, where they work under the supervision of a beat team sergeant. Chicago's program features regular meetings between these officers and residents of the beats they serve. These beat community meetings are to provide a venue for identifying and prioritizing local problems through a dialog between police and residents that is informed by the regular distribution of crime and arrest information. Residents and police are also supposed to discuss solutions to the problems that are identified at the meetings, and divide the responsibility for specific problem-solving efforts between police, residents and municipal service agencies. Most beats meet monthly, and-- except in December--the city held between 225 and 268 beat meetings each month during 1998. Based on department records, 25 residents attended the average beat meeting during 1998, along with about seven police officers. During 1998, more than 67,000 residents attended beat meetings in their neighborhood. During 1998, a team of field researchers from the Institute for Policy Research attended 454 beat meetings throughout the city. They recorded what took place at each meeting on lengthy observation forms, and they distributed questionnaires to residents and police who were present. This paper describes the project in detail, and includes as appendices all of the observation forms and survey questionnaires that were employed in the study. Analyses of the data can be found in the forthcoming 1999 report, Community Policing in Chicago, Years Five-Six, which is available on request from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, 120 South Riverside Plaza, Suite 1016, Chicago IL 60606.

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