CHAMPAIGN – Champaign police are responding to some of the suggestions they heard from Champaign residents during 14 citizen and police dialogues held last fall.
Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney said the dialogues, which were scheduled last summer after the release of a state traffic stop report, proved valuable to the department.
"I absolutely think they're valuable," he said of the meetings. "They give us an opportunity to hear what's on the citizens' mind in their particular area, and it gives us an idea about how to redirect resources."
The traffic stop report showed that while blacks made up 13 percent of the driving population in Champaign, they made up one-third of all the people stopped for traffic offenses – indicating a racial disparity.
The biggest concern raised by residents who attended the meetings was traffic, including loud car stereos and vehicles speeding in neighborhoods.
In response, traffic enforcement operations are being expanded and reorganized, Finney said.
Finney said Sgt. Dave Griffet has been assigned to oversee and coordinate traffic enforcement efforts citywide.
"We'll have more radar and more STEP (Selective Traffic Enforcement Program) patrols," said Finney.
The city is also creating a Web site where residents can e-mail traffic complaints to the police department. The city will also post results of specific traffic enforcement efforts, such as the number and kind of tickets written, in particular neighborhoods or locations, Finney said.
"That was one of the complaints we heard, that people see enforcement but they don't know what the results are," said Finney. "We have to step up to that need for information."
Residents also expressed concerns about juveniles, including curfew and truancy issues.
The city will continue its station adjustment programs, where youths charged with committing a crime or having been involved in a violent incident at school come to the police station for counseling. Such a plan, intended to keep youths out of the criminal justice system, includes curfew checks, regular contact with school personnel about the youth's behavior and school attendance.
The city also continues its negotiations with the Champaign school district about creating six school resource officers who would be stationed in Champaign middle and high schools.
"We're still negotiating about costs and a memo of understanding," Finney said.
The city is also expanding to three sessions a youth police academy held during June and July due to the program's popularity. City police are also working with the Champaign Park District on programs, such as movies, flag football, softball and basketball games, at which youths and police can interact.
The city's police complaint process is also being reviewed by a subcommittee made up of representatives from the police department, the police union, the police chief's citizen advisory committee, the Police Community Relations Group and community representatives. A report is expected later this spring.
Nine more citizen and police dialogues are being scheduled over the next several months, Finney said.
The Champaign City Council will be asked Tuesday in study session to authorize implementation of the police programs. The council meets at 7 p.m. at the Champaign City Building, 102 N. Neil St.