Addressing violent crime

Addressing violent crime

Say what you will about Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing; she isn't one to sit on her hands when problems present themselves.

Illegal-gun violence has been an unsettling problem in Champaign-Urbana for years now. In the last Champaign city election, almost every candidate singled it out as the biggest issue they faced. They've been talking about it — off and on — ever since.

Meanwhile, the guns — many in the hands of young black men and teens — have been blazing away unabated, often to tragic consequences.

But the smoke had barely cleared from another weekend shooting in Urbana before Mayor Laurel Prussing was moving. On Monday, Prussing and police Chief Pat Connolly sent the city council a proposal to put five more police officers on Urbana streets.

That's what leadership looks like.

Neither Prussing nor Connolly would begin to suggest this is the be-all and end-all solution to a crisis that ranges far beyond local borders. Prussing properly calls it a socially transmitted epidemic.

Nor does either propose backing away from collaborative social initiatives already underway. But they both seem to recognize that finding solutions means trying everything they can.

The mayor's proposal would yield two more officers on the street each day from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m., when violence is highest. The cost is not inconsequential, $460,000 annually. Prussing believes it can be paid for from savings the city has found in the cost of employee health insurance, or perhaps from increases in the hotel-motel tax. She wants council discussion on that.

But there should be little discussion on whether Urbana citizens deserve the protection, even though that city's problem has been far less pronounced than it has on the other side of Wright Street.

"Public safety is the first responsibility we have, that any government has. That has to come first," Prussing said.

If, as communities, we are to do all we can, this is part of that. And to those who say more police presence won't help, we suggest it may be the only step that is proven to help. We know the proximity of officers discourages crime.

Champaign and Urbana have reached the point when it is time to do more. The Urbana council can lead the way.

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787 wrote on December 03, 2016 at 8:12 pm

The mayor wants to increase the number of police officers, at the same time that members on the city council want to weaken law enforcement, and be a "sanctuary city"... which essentially harbors people who are breaking the law, simply by being in this country.

Keep the contridictions coming, Urbana.   Just when it appears that it can't get any crazier... someone comes up with something.