RANTOUL — Regina Crider decided she’d seen enough.
A longtime resident of Rantoul, Crider said she witnessed from her house a person firing multiple shots into a house in her neighborhood.
“I looked out and saw a young man standing on the corner shooting at a house. It was ... between 25 and 30 rounds,” Crider said.
Fortunately, no one was hurt. Crider said she spoke with the occupant of the home a couple days later, “and she was pretty shook up about the whole situation because she has children and she was concerned” for their safety.
Crider said she doesn’t want these types of situations to be “normalized” — something residents just accept.
A few days later, she saw a young man running through her neighborhood. She later learned he had been shot in the chest in a different neighborhood.
Rantoul police Sgt. Jim Schmidt said the condition of the 16-year-old, who had undergone several hours of surgery, has improved, and he remains in an area hospital.
Crider, who on Tuesday was sworn in as a newly elected member of the village board, said she spoke with a police detective and asked how community members are updated on the progress of crimes. The detective said police don’t normally put out a statement on the status of investigations.
Crider decided she didn’t want to sit back and do nothing. She has helped to found the Rantoul Community Public Safety Task Force, which held its first meeting last weekend. Twenty-two people attended.
Crider said she has spoken with Village Administrator Scott Eisenhauer, and they will “look at ways how we as a community, including the village police department and community leaders, can gather around and address this issue. This is not an issue that can be handled by just the police department.”
Police Chief Tony Brown has assigned Sgt. Christina Reifsteck to work with the task force. Crider said Brown “was immediately on board” with the formation of the task force.
She said Brown told her, “They can’t just arrest their way around the issue. It requires community involvement and stakeholders,” Crider said.
Reifsteck said Crider has been “committed to Rantoul for years.
“Her involvement doesn’t surprise me,” Reifsteck said. “I think she’s really connected to the town. She is a great resource” to help solve some of the issues facing the community.
A 17-year veteran of the Rantoul Police Department, Reifsteck said in the past year, there has been a noticeable uptick locally in the type of crime Crider witnessed.
And it’s not just a local problem.
“Over the course of the last year, it’s been noticeable nationally,” she said. “We’re seeing a rise in this kind of behavior. Unfortunately, it’s a reminder that in a community the size of Rantoul, we’re not exempt from it.”
Crider said she has identified some evidence-based models that might be useful.
The first meeting of the task force was more information-based.
“What I have found to work in the past, the first thing is, you have to let people talk and share their feelings. We heard the hearts of the people,” Crider said. “Many gave up good ideas, and we discovered we all need to be educated about what can happen and what we can do.”
The task force will meet again from 10 to 11:30 a.m. May 22 at a location to be determined.
At that meeting, the goal will be to identify work group areas as well as chairs and co-chairs.
“We want to get ahead of this program,” Crider said. “We don’t want to normalize gun violence. We don’t want people to become accustomed to this. We want to make it a safe community for everyone.”