CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA)– The numbers from 2022 are in and they reveal that Champaign Police are seeing success in reducing crime.
“2022 was a breath of fresh air,” said Champaign Police Lt. Ben Newell.
Newell says between the pandemic, the death of an officer, and a drastic loss of staffing it was hard to operate as the well-oiled machine that police departments should be.
But 2022 was different.
“It was revitalization for the police department,” said Newell.
The department hired 30 new officers, spent over 360 hours engaging the community at 81 different events, and spent more than 23 thousand hours in training.
“With new officers, new direction we’ve increased productivity,” said Newell.
Pastor Willie Comer says he believes that effort has changed the way his youth group students see police
“Twenty-three thousand hours of training yes, tremendous, I love it, and now maybe some of our kids will decide maybe I wanna be a police officer,” said Comer.
He says that thought would have never crossed their minds two years ago.
He says students’ perception of officers is half the battle so when they start trusting officers to keep them safe, it’s clear to him that they too want to see an end to gun violence.
“These kids now are thinking differently, they’re not thinking let me pick up a gun they have a different kind of thought process,” said Comer.
When Comer found out police seized over 230 guns off the streets, he was happy.
‘I’m excited when I don’t see teenagers being killed and teenagers going to jail because that means you just lost two kids in a community,” said Comer.
Police say shootings went down by half, homicides went down by 47 percent, and 8 out of the 9 homicides have been solved.
Champaign County Crime Stoppers have played a role in these statistics.
Their Illegal Gun Bounty Reward Program started in 2019, since then they’ve helped with 67 arrests, recovered 81 illegal weapons and have given out 86 thousand dollars in rewards.
The numbers don’t stop there.
Within six months of installation, police say automatic license plate readers have helped them solve dozens of felony cases including three homicides and recovering 12 stolen vehicles.
Mayor Deb Feinen says this is a testament to the department’s hard work and they’ll soon introduce a new tool called “Raven.”
“It’s basically a mesh over the Garden Hills neighborhood which is shot spotter equipment which will be able to locate when shots are fired and help pinpoint them to a location and immediately call the police,” said Feinen.
She says there is still more work to be done when it comes to reducing crime and hopes that tools like this and the Violence Reduction Blueprint will put Champaign in an even better spot next year.