CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Champaign Police have faced a multitude of challenges as they investigate a caseload of shooting crimes during a year filled with an increase in gun violence.
Police are closing in on a more prevalent year of gun crime. There has been a significant increase in shootings so far this year compared to last. There were 100 shooting incidents in 2019. This year, to date, there have been 171 shooting incidents. Seven people have been killed by gunfire, ranging from ages 16 to 34.
Lieutenant Matthew Henson describes the amount of shootings this year as problematic for the department. They can not pinpoint a widespread connection between all of them. “There is no isolated event or one major thing we can look to that is the catalyst for all of these shootings, unfortunately. So that makes it more complex as we investigate these because we do have to look at them individually,” says Lt. Henson.
A lingering question people have is where people get the guns. Lt. Henson said, “Some people may obtain firearms through family members that have FOID cards. Some firearms could be obtained through illegal means whether they are bought off the street or stolen maybe in a burglary or burglary of a motor vehicle.”
For the families of those who were killed, it has been devastating. That is why Maurice Hayes founded an outreach group called Hood Vision Neighborhood Transformation. He said, “The community itself is hurting because it [gun violence] is too prominent. We have to learn how to heal from those wounds, close those wounds as best as we can, then figure out a better way and a better solution to come together.” His team works with families affected by gun violence to comfort them and to mentor people who could get involved in shootings themselves. “We try to show them that even through the worst situation and circumstances you can still be successful, you can still be greater than what your circumstances are, you can still be a person that doesn’t conform to the negativity that’s so so prevalent around us.”
This year CPD has had more officers patrolling the neighborhoods that experience the most gun violence. Officials say one of the biggest obstacles they face is people who have information about the crimes, but choose to withhold it. In order to solves these crimes, officials need people to work with them and share that information to bring justice to the families of the victims.
This can be done anonymously through Crime Stoppers or by contacting Champaign Police directly at (217) 351-4545.