DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) — When looking at crime statistics, it is easy to think of them as just that– a statistic. However, a new group in town is reminding everyone there are people behind the numbers.
Hearts of Angels is comprised of moms and family members that lost loved ones to gun violence. They want change in their neighborhoods. They just want the violence to stop. However, they know they are only at the start of a very long path to that end.
Right now, they just want to restore trust between the community, and the city and police. Now, they are using their own stories to do it.
For some, its been years, others only months. However, all the families behind Hearts of Angels have been hit by tragedy. “Every time I hear a gun shot or hear on the scanner or that somebody has been wounded by gunfire, it’s heartbreaking,” said Jennifer Kirby. “It’s like reliving it all over again.” Kirby lost her son after he was shot and killed in 2011.
Since 2017, Decatur is averaging almost 90 reports of shots fired every year–almost once every four days. That is why Hearts of Angels was created. They want to make sure people do not become numb to the statistics and they are just getting started. “Our next step is definitely to create more awareness,” said organizer Thelma Sutton. “We are definitely going to have different movements and have more fundraisers.”
The group has only had a few meetings and a Friday meeting at the Decatur Civic Center was their first public one. While they called on the City and police to do more in helping and help restore trust, they also know that the real solution to the problem lies in prevention. “Obviously, its our hope and desire that our government or the police department does protect and serve, but the truth of the matter is that they are a clean-up crew,” said Kirby. “They show up after the fact.” While they do hope to find solutions down the road, the group provides a more immediate impact too.
It gives them a group of people that understand the pain they are going through. “Instead of us holding on to the pain, we are trying to learn,” said Vivian Penermon, whose son was shot 7 killed in September. “We are trying to find it in our hearts to forgive. So that we can move on. It took me a long time to get there, but we are getting there.”
Both the Decatur Chief of Police and the Macon County Sheriff were at the meeting Friday. They spoke with the mothers afterwards to try and work towards other solutions. The group is still planning what their next event will take place.