Cobb: 'We cannot arrest our way out of this problem'

Cobb: 'We cannot arrest our way out of this problem'

CHAMPAIGN — The capture of Rakim Vineyard's killer alone won't solve the city's ongoing violence problem, Champaign Police Chief Anthony Cobb said.

"We cannot arrest our way out of this problem," Cobb told The News-Gazette on Monday night, prior to speaking to the United Garden Hills Neighborhood Association. "We need neighborhoods, just like this association, working together to deal with the problems. We're not going to tolerate this activity in our neighborhoods."

Cobb took to the streets Monday, two days after the city's second fatal shooting in 25 days. Mr. Vineyard, 22, was shot at about 12:24 p.m. Saturday in the 1000 block of North Sixth Street, roughly a block north of Douglass Park.

Police hadn't made any arrests as of Monday night but revealed more details about Saturday's homicide two days later:

— Three homes in the area were also struck by gunfire in the same incident, spokeswoman Rene Dunn said.

— One of the rounds penetrated the exterior wall of a home and hit a 14-year-old boy in the leg. Cobb called the boy's injuries "superficial," adding, "He didn't need medical attention."

— The shooter and Mr. Vineyard knew one another, Cobb said police now believe. The armed man was described as a black male, between 17-25 years old; about 5 feet, 9 inches tall and wearing a white shirt and denim shorts or pants.

— Mr. Vineyard died from a gunshot wound to the back, according to preliminary results of an autopsy conducted Monday in Urbana, said Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup.

Police don't know if Saturday's shooting is connected to others in the city in recent weeks, including the June 24 fatal shooting of Allen Redding in the 1500 block of Hedge Road.

"Everyone who is a resident of the city of Champaign or Champaign County should be concerned," Cobb said. "What happened in Garden Hills or what happened in the 1000 block of North Sixth Street could happen anywhere there is a conflict between two people and there is a weapon available."

Dunn said Champaign police have increased their presence in the north and northwest areas of the city, where gunfire has been prevalent.

Cobb said officers are beginning to note another troubling theme with recent incidents: Many of them involve "organized groups," or gangs.

"Groups are working together," he said. "The problem with these groups today is that they are friends today and enemies tomorrow. People are constantly changing sides.

"There are undertones in which drugs are involved, and that makes it more challenging for us," he said.

Mr. Redding's death last month prompted Garden Hills residents to invite Cobb and other city officials to Monday's meeting.

"I've lived here for 26 years, and, of course, I'm concerned when we hear things happen like this," Association President Amy Revilla said. "But it happens everywhere else, too. I don't like to see it, but we want to reach out to the neighbors so we can let their fears be eased somewhat."

Becky Restad said she has lived in the neighborhood since she was a first-grader, attending a brand-new Garden Hills Elementary School.

"I'm not afraid to be out here," Restad said. "This is our neighborhood, and we want to pull together to get this under control. If you show you are afraid, that's when they target you."

Cobb suggested people who are afraid to talk to police use their smartphones to help.

"We ask people to take cover if they happen to be around gunfire. Protect yourselves first," Cobb said. "If you are unwilling or are scared to talk to the police, use your smartphone. Over half the population has a smartphone.

"Photograph what you can at the scene. Photograph the suspect if you can do it safely. Get the vehicle and license plate. Video-record it," he said. "If you don't feel comfortable talking with us, send the photos and videos to Crimestoppers. Those things can be helpful to us in an investigation."

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pattsi wrote on July 22, 2014 at 7:07 pm

I attended this meeting. There was an impressive turnout. Many good questions showing concerns for the Garden Hills area. One take away comment by Chief Cobb, which might have been "tongue in cheek," was about the importance of creating a safe environment there, but that the problems move to other areas in the community. I trust what he actually means is that all of us ought to organize our neighborhoods and have "eyes on the street" so we create a totally safe community.

rsp wrote on July 22, 2014 at 8:07 am

 There's no reason kids should be afraid to play outside. Or get shot in their own homes even. There's no reason babies should be losing their father to a coward who shot him in the back. A coward. I hope this child wakes up and realizes what he's done before it's too late for him because a man doesn't do this. He will regret this, they usually do. It may take a few years before he comes to see how stupid this was when he can't remember why he did it. I hope he's still alive then. That his family doesn't have to suffer this tragedy.

ilmsff7 wrote on July 22, 2014 at 5:07 pm

I'm glad to see police and citizens coming together and working to find constructive ways to combat violence.

just_wondering wrote on July 22, 2014 at 7:07 pm

Are you being sarcastic? 

That's a serious, non-sarcastic question. 

Crime in north Champaign is persistent. Every summer, when it's nice enough weather, the concerned leaders of "the community" step forward and work together with the police on a solution. Year after year after year....

Welcome to Champaign Chief.

Marti Wilkinson wrote on July 22, 2014 at 10:07 pm

I was unable to attend the neighborhood association meeting last night due to a family member being in the hospital, but I did ask about what was discussed there last night and who was in attendance. Some of the items discussed also included encouraging landlords to bring their properties up to code, and issues with street lighting.

Having lived in Garden Hills for close to 17 years, I don't know anyone who is in a gang. I don't know who is involved with selling drugs. When I bought my house I also called the police department and talked to the person who handled the crime data for the area. I also drove through the area at different times of the day and night. I wanted to make sure that my daughter and I would be in a good place before I made an offer on my home. When I moved into Garden Hills my primary focus was on providing a home for my daughter and working to support the two of us.

People can form a neighborhood watch, find ways to make anonymous reports, and otherwise keep an eye out for one another. But if the basic root of the problems are not addressed, then any efforts will be a bandaid at best. Poverty, the failed war on drugs, a lack of a living wage standard, and other inequities need to be considered when looking for a solution.

It's also important to consider that the actions of a few people are not representative of an entire neighborhood. I remember when a woman in Cherry Hills stabbed her two sons and she was committed to a mental hospital instead of being sent to prison. No one suggested that her upper middle class environment was responsible for her losing touch with reality. Or accused her parents of failing to instill proper values in their child. Yet, if something happens in a "predominately black neighborhood" then we get the scapegoating of parents, public housing, and other worn out stereotypes being put on display.

What I would like to see is the city taking advantage of having a university in close proximity. There are a few people who have carefully studied and researched these issues who can provide ideas to the community. Yet, I've talked to individuals who have tried to approach the city, who ended up being given the cold shoulder and treated like outsiders.


kjackson75 wrote on July 28, 2014 at 1:07 pm

I appreciate Chief Cobb speaking up about this and trying to resolve this horriffic situation. People we have got to WAKE UP and adults it is time to stop being afraid of kids and take the neighborhoods back. A big problem is that people run and move out of the neighborhoods allowing the people who are creating the crimes to take over. NO, this has to stop and I will start with me. I will go in neighborhoods, stand outside of stores and ask people to sign a petition that says we will be responsible for other people's children. If you see my child or I see Joe Blow's child standing out doing something that they should not be doing, I will SAY SOMETHING, not sit there and act like I don't see what is going on. We have to step out of our comfort zones and speak up to children whom we don't know. If someone gets out of control or we see some suspicious behavoir, CALL THE POLICE!!! They don't have to know you called the police, if you are afraid, call anonymously and tell the police dispatcher NOT to reveal your name. Law officials please respect this because people are fearful for their own lives and their family's lives and don't want to be caught in the MIDST of this madness. It has to stop and start somewhere. Ministers and Missionaries it's time to step out of the four corners of the walls of church and walk and pray through the neighborhoods. Help me make a difference PLEASE. These are our kids and grandkids future, if things don't change, they will not have one.