Danville looks for solutions in wake of shootings
Monday's shooting was at least seventh in city since March
DANVILLE — Growing up on Kentucky Avenue in Danville, 61-year-old Alyce Marion remembers sleeping on the front porch in the summer months and playing with other kids in the neighborhood until the street lights came on, a sign it was time to get home.
Everybody knew everybody, and parents knew where their kids were, said Marion, who returned to her old neighborhood as an adult, buying a house on Kentucky in 2009 near her aunt, Alice Henry, the last homeowner left from Marion's childhood days.
But the south Danville neighborhood has changed, said Marion, who was sitting on her front porch early the evening of May 31 when she heard what she thought were firecrackers.
Moments later, the area was "swarming with police," said Marion, who soon learned that a Danville officer had been shot.
The police officer, whose injuries were not life-threatening, tried to question a man walking in the second block of Kentucky Avenue. The officer believed the man matched the description of the suspect in an armed robbery earlier in the week. The man, Michael Rouse, was eventually caught by police and arrested for both the shooting and the armed robbery of a Family Dollar store in the same area of the city.
Just a few weeks later, early on June 20, Kentucky Avenue was the scene of a second shooting. This time, three people were injured after being shot on the front porch of a residence there.
The incidents on Kentucky Avenue are two of at least seven shootings in Danville since March.
The most recent happened early Monday morning, when a Danville man was fatally shot in his residence on Marion Street by one person, possibly two, who may have forced their way into the home, according to Larry Thomason, public safety director with Danville police.
And Monday's homicide was the second shooting in the city in less than 36 hours.
At 11:30 p.m. Friday, a 19-year-old Chicago man was shot in the leg as he walked with relatives to a vehicle parked in the 1200 block of Garden Drive at the Vermilion Gardens apartment complex on Danville's northeast side. Two males had approached him, according to reports to police, and one pulled a gun and fired, hitting the victim in the lower leg. He was taken to Presence United Samaritans Medical Center for treatment and later released.
In response to the recent shootings, Danville Alderman Rickey Williams Jr., Ward 1, told the city council Tuesday night that more police officers are needed on the streets. He encouraged the mayor to form a task force to study that possibility.
But Alderman Bill Black, Ward 7, said the city could add 200 officers to patrol the streets, and there's still no guarantee there wouldn't be another shooting. He said police are not dealing with the same issues they did 20 years ago in the city.
"It's a new era, and it's not just us," said Black, adding that other central Illinois cities are dealing with similar crime issues and shootings.
Thomason said any police administration in any city would like to put more officers on the street, but it's an economic issue — Danville can hire only the officers it can financially support. "(Adding officers) is not always the answer," he said.
Marion, who has had a legal handgun in her house for protection for the last four years — along with two dogs — would like to see a curfew enforced for young people, more police patrols in her area and a crackdown on speeders along her residential street.
Her neighborhood has changed, she said, partly because many of the homes on Kentucky have become rentals, some of them in the Section 8 federal housing program. She said there's a lot of turnover, and neighbors don't know each other.
"The neighborhood has gone from good to bad," Marion said.
What Danville police are doing, Thomason said, is concentrating patrols and other efforts in "target" areas based upon crime rates and types of incidents, like the area that includes Kentucky Avenue.
But, he said, patrol officers are responsible for every call that comes in to 911, so police can't maintain a constant presence in any neighborhood.
"What we are addressing is the crime overall, whether the violent crimes themselves or the causes of those crimes. We target areas where we've had the issues," said Thomason, who added that most often, investigators working to solve violent crimes determine that they are not random but that the perpetrator and victims often had some type of contact previously.
"It's not random," he said. "It's not a Wild West situation."