Police chiefs concerned about increased violence during pandemic


TAYLORVILLE, Ill. (WCIA) — A massive crowd surrounded a fight that broke out Thursday night. The police chief said this type of violence has become more common since the stay at home order started.

Several police chiefs across central Illinois are raising questions as they have seen a noticeable spike in crime and violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fight in Taylorville resulted in several arrests. “There were weapons involved, sledgehammers and shovels,” said Taylorville Police Chief Dwayne Wheeler. A fight between several men led to more than 100 spectators gathering in the streets of downtown. “It’s become normal for Taylorville; that type of chaos,” said one woman, who wished to remain anonymous.

Police arrived on the scene as the physical violence escalated. “We separated all the parties and noticed an individual laying on the ground with blood coming from his head,” said Wheeler. That man has since been discharged from the hospital. Four other men were arrested, facing charges of mob action and aggravated battery.

Wheeler said this is just one incident in a larger string of crimes that have been happening recently. “What we’ve seen in the last 10 days is a spike in crime. Our thefts are going up. We’re getting fight calls.” He started to notice the recent trend as the pandemic has stretched on. “With this COVID-19, people are stressed and frustrated because things are not going their way. Now they’re coming out. A lot of people are angry and just making bad decisions.”

The increase in crimes extends into other cities. Decatur Police Chief Jim Getz released a message on social media Friday saying there has been an increase in gun violence since the start of the pandemic. Authorities are pleading with people to control their actions and, when crimes do happen, tell police what you know to help solve these crimes.

“Community engagement and community policing is our main focus,” said Wheeler. “I can say without a doubt that we have the support of the community because when they call and tell us information, we take action.”

Three days ago in Decatur, five people were shot at one scene. Police said nobody shared truthful information on what they knew or saw. Decatur Chief Getz put out a plea on social media saying in part, “For those who are victims and/or involved in these shootings, it is time for them, their family and friends to step up and end this culture of violence…Be part of the solution and put an end to this unacceptable behavior. It is time for courage and change for the good of our community.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.