Tuesday, May 03, 2005

CAPS Showdown!

Before I moved to Marshfield Avenue, our CAPS meeting used to be great, I'm told. They had Spanish-English translation and a core group of residents who worked hard to watch out for gang and drug activity and to light a fire under the rear ends of delinquent landlords who let those activities go on in their buildings. Years back, Marshfield used to be known as "Murderfield" for the number of gang-related shootings going on. This CAPS meeting made a real difference in bringing that number down.

How the mighty have fallen. Since last fall, when I started going to these meetings, I found a facilitator running her mouth about the political ineffectiveness of our gerrymandered neighborhood and the apathy of our aldermen. I found cops who made little effort to engage with the residents who came, and I found a majority of Spanish-speaking residents sitting there with no clue what was going on, since there was no official translation. A lady I will refer to as Red has been trying to translate on the side for her neighbors, but she told me she got a headache at the last meeting because everyone was talking at once and no one gave room for her to fill people in.

Last week, I went to the district meeting and pleaded for help. Yesterday, Red went up to our facilitator and told her straight out she wasn't doing much of a job. This led to an incredible scene of histrionics--this woman red in the face yelling at everyone within earshot (that would probably be half the block, really), and taking my alderman's rep to task for things she can't even control, since they aren't in the ward. Red and I agreed it was clearly displaced anger and being told she needs to develop an agenda and make sure there's translation.

All of this went on even before the cops showed up. Surprisingly, we got a bright spot in the midst of all this drama. At last, a Spanish-speaking, neighborhood-residing cop came to a CAPS meeting! Hallelujah! "I think this is just to appease us," warned Red, who is concerned there's still no improvement on the facilitation side.

This cop, to be known as LC (local cop, to distinguish from DC, decent cop), actually took a bunch of people's phone numbers and said he would call us. OK, OK, I am sold on this new commander. Now all we have to do is work out the facilitator thing. I even went and told some of my neighbors it might be worth coming to the next CAPS meeting. One of them told me through her daughter that she quit going when they didn't translate anymore. "Eso es porque no voy a facilidad," I said, which didn't quite say what I intended (that's why I'm not going to facilitate), but since it was spoken so badly, she got the point and laughed quite hard.

One of the white cops (who generally sit there and joke around with each other when the meeting goes into Spanish, how rude) actually made a point to come over and give me some advice. It was the first time any of the cops had tried to say anything constructive to me in the months I've been attending so far. So, a bit of progress, let's hope.

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