U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy



The Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) is a community-based policing strategy that was field-tested in five experimental districts in Chicago. In the CAPS program, officers in all districts and on all beats were instructed to work with neighborhood residents to identify chronic local crime problems and to devise solutions for them. The views of the local residents were expressed through district-level advisory committees and monthly public meetings. To evaluate the program, Skogan et al. (1999; Skogan and Steiner, 2004) obtained data on 15 police beats from observations and ride-alongs, agency files, attendance at public meetings, interviews with community leaders, and surveys of local residents.

The evaluation used a quasi-experimental design based on the differential changes in views and experience of two groups over time. Data were gathered from survey interviews with a random sample of residents in the five experimental areas and five matched nonexperimental areas (n=1,506). The first survey took place during April and May 1993. The respondents were interviewed again 18 months later, to measure changes in their perceptions of crime. The evaluation revealed evidence of improvement in every program area, compared with the nonexperimental group.

The evaluators gave an “excellent” rating to 4 of the 15 beats. Another 5 were found to be reasonably successful programs, 2 were of questionable effectiveness, and 4 received failing marks. Reports of drug and gang problems declined in two of the worst areas, as did perceptions of physical decay. The ratings were based on success in problem-solving practices, efforts to involve the community, and adherence to a clear plan of action. Some of the best practices were developed in some of the poorest neighborhoods, but at least 5 beats in ethnically diverse or primarily African-American neighborhoods did not receive very good service. Residents said gang violence was reduced in an experimental neighborhood. A manual is available that other communities can use in implementing programs based on the CAPS model (Skogan et al., 2000).

Risk Factors


Exposure to firearm violence

High alcohol/drug use

High drug dealing

Illegal gun ownership/carrying

Physical violence/aggression

Violent victimization


Delinquent siblings

Family history of problem behavior/criminal involvement

Family poverty/low family socioeconomic status

Family violence (child maltreatment, partner violence, conflict)

Poor parental supervision (control, monitoring, and child management)


Frequent truancy/absences/suspensions; expelled from school; dropping out of school

Low school attachment/bonding/motivation/commitment to school

Poor school attitude/performance; academic failure

Poorly organized and functioning schools/inadequate school climate/negative labeling by teachers


Availability and use of drugs in the neighborhood

Availability of firearms

Community disorganization

Economic deprivation/poverty/residence in a disadvantaged neighborhood

Exposure to violence and racial prejudice

Feeling unsafe in the neighborhood

High-crime neighborhood

Neighborhood physical disorder

Neighborhood youth in trouble


Association with antisocial/aggressive/delinquent peers; high peer delinquency

Association with gang-involved peers/relatives

Gang membership

Peer alcohol/drug use


National Gang Center and OJJDP Model Programs Guide: Effective program


CAPS Implementation Office
Chicago Police Department
3510 S. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60653
Phone: (312) 747-9987


Hartnett, S. M., and Skogan, W. G. (1999). “Community Policing: Chicago’s Experience.” National Institute of Justice Journal, April, 2–11.

Skogan, W. G.; Hartnett, S. M.; DuBois, J.; Comey, J. T.; Kaiser, M.; and Loving, J. H. (2000). Problem Solving in Practice: Implementing Community Policing in Chicago. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice.

Skogan, W. G.; Hartnett, S. M.; DuBois, J.; Comey, J. T.; Kaiser, M.; and Loving, J. H. (1999). On the Beat: Police and Community Problem Solving. Boulder, CO: Westview.

Skogan, W. G., and Steiner, L. (2004). CAPS at Ten: Community Policing in Chicago. Chicago, IL: Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.

Date Created: April 7, 2021