C-U authorities believe citizens play vital role

Like many of their neighbors, Charles and Celia Evans are concerned about deteriorating businesses and rising crime in the area.

Former Eastern Illinois University professors living in southeast Urbana, they bought their home in May 2001 and commuted to Charleston for three years, before retiring.

"We walked to get ice cream, to buy shoes at Payless," said Celia Evans. "Now, I don't feel safe walking in our neighborhood."

October is Crime Prevention Month, and local police say citizens working with police is the key to preventing crime.

"We are not going to be effective without citizen involvement," said Urbana Police Chief Eddie Adair.

Adair met with about 145 people from the Southeast Urbana Neighborhood Association to talk about their concerns last month. As the chief reported to them, overall, crime is down in Urbana by about 13.5 percent, according to data compiled for January through June this year compared with the same time last year. Citywide calls for police service are down about 7 percent for that period.

However, for all of last year, Beat 6-4, the area between Main Street and Windsor Road east of Vine Street got 7,617 calls for service – by far the highest number of any police beat.

Northwest Urbana, Beat 6-1, had 5,118 calls for service; Northeast Urbana, Beat 6-2, had 3,709 calls for service; and Southwest Urbana, Beat 6-3, had 3,312 calls for service.

Total crimes by beat in Urbana last year were: 3,916 in Beat 6-4; 2,289 in Beat 6-1; 1,658 in Beat 6-2 and 1,318 in Beat 6-3.

Urbana patrol officers have made efforts to be more visible in southeast Urbana, Adair said.

Adair and Mayor Laurel Prussing have discussed plans to create a new beat for southeast Urbana, which would be staffed by new officers. To begin the plan, three additional officers, approved by the council, would be assigned to the area, he said. The three new officers would raise the city's authorized patrol staff to 53.

But even with the new officers, Adair said, citizen communication is vital.

"The Urbana Police Department is out there, but we can't be everywhere at once," Adair said. "When citizens see something that doesn't look right, they should let us know."

Citizens who see something suspicious should get descriptions, license plates and other information, he said.

"There is no insignificant information," Adair said. "If they will call it in, we will follow up."

Urbana patrol officers meet with citizens once a month to talk about various aspects of policing and crime prevention. The next session is set for Oct. 6 at the Vineyard Christian Church, 1500 N. Lincoln Ave.

Members of the Southeast Urbana Neighborhood Association are scheduled to meet again with police officials Oct. 19, with police giving tips on specific things citizens can do.

In recent weeks, law enforcement agencies throughout Champaign County have been reporting widespread car burglaries. In Champaign, for example, there were 342 motor vehicle burglaries from January through Sept. 27 last year; for the same time this year, there have been 461 car burglaries.

Joan Walls, assistant to the Champaign police chief for community relations, said preventing crime is a partnership between police and the citizens.

"It's important that we work together to solve these crimes," Walls said.

"People need to lock their doors and windows," she said. "If they see anything suspicious, they need to call police or, if they want to remain anonymous, call Crimestoppers."

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