City looks at adding safety tools to disrupt violence

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URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — “Over the course of the last couple years the gun violence has increased and its increased greatly,” Urbana Police Chief Bryant Seraphin said.

Now city leaders are looking for a way to decrease it and they think they know what could help. The city of Urbana is looking into a way to hopefully stop violence. WCIA told you earlier this week they’re looking at installing automatic license plate readers.

Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin hopes the automatic license plate readers, or ALDR’s, would help disrupt violence. She knows there needs to be long term solutions, but she and the police chief agree something needs to be done now.

“We have a gun violence crisis in Urbana Champaign. We have more shootings, more injuries, more deaths, people are using more powerful weapons. They can convert pistols to shoot like machine guns now,” Mayor Diane Marlin said.

The City of Urbana is looking at ways to slow down violence.

“Short term we have to disrupt this pattern of retaliatory shootings and that has just escalated over the past few years,” Mayor Marlin said.

Urbana Police say confirmed shooting incidents have risen over the years:

  • 2017- 17 confirmed shooting events
  • 2018- 32 confirmed shooting events
  • 2019- 33 confirmed shooting events
  • 2020- 53 confirmed shooting events
  • 2021- 82 (as of 9/15/2021) confirmed shooting events

“If we use the current rate to extrapolate that out, that would get us to 120 shooting events in a year. That’s four times where we’ve been,” Chief Seraphin said.

The mayor and chief are looking at installing automatic license plate readers. These would be placed throughout neighborhoods that see more crime. The devices work by detecting motion and getting a snap shot of a license plate. Then the device will give the police the car’s make, model, color and more.

“Its not going to stop all the gun violence, no one is saying that, but what it will do is help us solve these crimes, hold people accountable for the shootings, and bring justice to the families of the victims,” Mayor Marlin said.

Chief Seraphin says these will help identifying cars before and after crimes and also help if witnesses are afraid to speak up or do not remember what they saw. They say while they know in the long term they need to work on other factors that contribute to gun violence. Right now, they are in crisis mode and working on a quick solution.

“They don’t feel safe in their own homes,” Mayor Marlin said. “Their kids can’t play outside. They don’t feel safe mowing their lawn or barbecuing in the front and that’s not right. Everyone deserves to live in peace in their neighborhoods and no one deserves to get shot in their home.”

“This is emergency level,” Chief Seraphin said. “This is a crisis level. So it would be our hope to get the products and get the install made, begin with the training, finalize policy development and those sort of things as soon as we could because we have a problem that needs to be addressed.”

Chief Seraphin said the ALPR’s cost about $2,500 per unit nd about $250 to install. He says he hopes they can install around 20 throughout Urbana.

Urbana got this idea after watching it work for surrounding cities. Rantoul recently caught a suspect by using the ALDR’s. Decatur also has them.

Mayor Marlin also said the University of Illinois Police and Champaign County Sheriff’s Office are looking into installing them as well. Chief Seraphin and the mayor said this would be helpful to work together with the surrounding areas.

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