CHAMPAIGN — The Champaign City Council grappled Tuesday with how to curb gun violence in the city, which saw an increase in shootings from 100 in 2019 to 189 last year.
Some 57 people were injured in shootings in 2020, up from 34 in 2019, and there were nine gun-related homicides, up from two the previous year.
Community Relations Manager Tracy Parsons said 2020 was a challenging year but remained hopeful that various violence-reduction initiatives will eventually pay off.
“This is difficult, complex, sad, sad work, but we’re committed to it,” Parsons said. “We’re going to make a difference here in our community.”
Last year, the city changed CU Fresh Start’s public call-ins — where gun-violence victims, police chiefs and community leaders speak with individuals identified as possible perpetrators of gun violence — to be more welcoming and began notifying individuals one-on-one.
Because of COVID-19, no call-ins were held last year, and 10 individuals were approached individually or referred from community partners.
Six of those 10 engaged with the program. Since CU Fresh Start began in 2016, two of its 86 participants have remained engaged, city staff said.
Of the eight currently engaged, six are employed or in a training program, one is unemployed and one is receiving disability income after being paralyzed in a shooting.
Parsons also said the city’s Community Safety and Wellness Team has met with the owners and managers of several apartment complexes where there’s been gun violence to discuss crime data and possible solutions, such as hiring security and upgrading lighting.
In addition to various efforts with community organizations, he said the Community Coalition has also partnered with the Community Data Clinic at the University of Illinois to collect data and evaluate the various initiatives in place.
Several council members thanked staff members for their efforts but said more work needs to be done.
“I wish we could find the magic program that fixes all of this,” council member Angie Brix said.
“Whatever we’re doing, we need to be doing something else, because it’s not working,” said council member Clarissa Fourman, who suggested a gunshot- detection system and encouraged more engagement with the First Followers prisoner re-entry program and more community-developed programs. “We need something new.”