URBANA — After a high-profile murder and armed robbery in southeast Urbana, a Democratic candidate for mayor says he's got a strategy to curb violent crime in that part of the city.
The incumbent mayor says her challenger just ripped off her plan.
Voters will decide between the two during a Feb. 26 Democratic primary election.
"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," Mayor Laurel Prussing said of the plan offered on Thursday by candidate Les Stratton.
Stratton's release of his public-safety plan comes on the tail of the murder of Curtis Mosley on Monday at 1102 E. Colorado Ave. Mr. Mosley was scheduled to testify in a felony trial the next day.
Two women testified on Wednesday that Ardis Fenn, against whom Mr. Mosley was scheduled to testify, was the man who shot him to death. Fenn turned himself in to authorities on Wednesday afternoon.
Stratton on Thursday offered a number of solutions he thinks would reduce crime in that area, including a more visible police presence, more resident involvement and more building code inspections.
"I think that we should sincerely be looking at the possibility of a (police) substation," Stratton said.
He said Prussing has been too infrequently calling meetings of her neighborhood safety task force, a group of city officials and residents who gather at city hall to discuss crime concerns.
"That's an indication that somebody's sleeping at the switch," Stratton said.
Violent crime has been an issue in the southeast Urbana neighborhood for years, and Prussing said the city is making progress by doing exactly what Stratton suggested the city is not doing.
Prussing examined Stratton's plan on Thursday and said it looks like her plan.
"That's what we're doing. It's remarkable," Prussing said. "It's one point after another what Urbana has been doing and has been doing for years."
And she said there has been progress, even though Stratton cited a crime spike between 2009 and 2011.
"Why doesn't he talk about where it is now?" Prussing said. "We did have a spike, but we got help from the University of Illinois police and the sheriff's department, and now we've reduced that level."
Urbana police Lt. Bob Fitzgerald confirmed that there was an increase in the crime rate in that part of town during those years. After a spike in 2011, calls for service dropped off significantly in 2012, from 4,400 to 4,177 in that part of town, according to police data.
Reports of crime dropped to 1,471 in 2012, down from 1,559 in 2011. The 2011 numbers were up significantly from 2010, and the drops in 2012 did not quite bring the numbers down to their 2010 levels.
Fitzgerald said there are more efforts to come. Police plan to launch bike patrols in that area soon, and they will continue to hold monthly meetings with business owners, managers and residents.
He said police have educated residents on how to protect themselves, and they have helped prepare security plans for business and apartment owners.
The southeast Urbana area is coming along, he said, and part of it is due to a more visible police presence.
"Some of it's also educating the residents and the businesses out there to call us when they see something," Fitzgerald said.
Crime rates in southeast Urbana
In 2011, calls for service and crime reports spiked in the police department's "Beat 65," an area that generally covers southeast Urbana. Numbers have come back down, but not to where they were before the spike.
|Year||Calls for service||Crime reports|
SOURCE: Urbana Police Department