URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — A community meeting was held Thursday night to create ways to prevent gun violence from happening.
There have been 97 shooting incidents in Champaign so far this year and 31 in Urbana. Just half an hour before this meeting started, a man was shot on Kenwood Road in Champaign.
At the meeting, the room was filled with those who live in both cities, school leaders, police and more. During the two hours, they pinpointed proactive ways the cities and communities can improve to help people avoid turning to violence.
Yvonne Johnson knows the agony that comes after a deadly shooting. Her 16-year-old son, David Sankey, was killed after being shot in the head outside his home last year. Johnson says, “For the person who picks up a gun, that is a coward way out. A real person, a human, would not kill another human, would not harm another human.”
People are continuously dying because of the gun violence. On Thursday night Urbana Community Relations Specialist Preston James asked people, “How do we keep our neighborhoods safe? With all of the shootings, we’re just reacting to those. Now we’re trying to find solutions to have a long term goal to end this.”
At each table people shared ideas like creating more community gatherings and forming more groups to help build trust, connections, and relationships with people who may get involved in gun violence. Another suggestion was creating more jobs, especially for those previously incarcerated, to avoid starting or returning to violence.
One of the other main concerns revolved around how this affects young people. Johnson says, “I am so afraid for these kids. The gun violence is getting worse and worse. I just want these kids to understand two things will happen. Either you’ll get killed or you’ll go to jail. When you shoot a gun you have to know there are consequences behind that.”
At the end of the night, people also brought up the importance of doing more to address youth trauma through mentoring and supporting them with more fulfilling ways to live their lives.
This group will be doing more community safety meetings, switching between different neighborhoods in Champaign and Urbana. The next location and date has not been set yet.