CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — People from all walks of life talked about finding common ground in the fight against gun violence, including people who caused it.
There have been shootings in cities across Champaign County in the past week, but after a shooting in Champaign that hurt three people last Thursday, people called city leaders asking for a community response forum.
Then, two more shootings happened over the weekend. So far, there has been more gun violence this year in Champaign than during any of the five years past, total.
Everyone in the circle at for forum was either a community leader, part of an anti-violence organization, or simply concerned about shootings in their own neighborhoods.
“Try to rally the community around the opportunities that already exist,” explained Champaign community relations specialist Mary Catherine Roberson. “To firm them up and really get the movement that we need from city hall, and also out in the streets, where it’s really, really going to be the most impactful.”
Roberson wanted people to know more about solutions available. So, they learned more about programs like C-U fresh start, Crime Stoppers, and mental health counseling in schools (to name a few).
Then, more ideas came up. People like Maurice Hayes cut right to the chase.
“I served 17 years in prison for the crime of first degree murder, and there’s a couple other brothers here who did the same,” said Hayes. “We’re here with the solutions that would’ve helped us, had we received them during the time we were going through what we were going through. It’s the same thing that’s going on now, just a different generation.”
Hayes now owns Firehouse Subs. He says to get people off the streets, give them a job. He did that, and he saw a difference.
“If there’s no way for me to make a living to feed my family, most of the time I resort to the resources that I know to feed my family,” said Hayes.
Other points of discussion included holding landlords of rental complexes accountable for repairs and reassurance when shootings happen.
Plus, they talked about how to dig deeper in schools, so staff members know when students are struggling…and students know when to look for help.
Roberson’s goal is to rally the troops to inspire active solutions, and eventually, change.
“Each time we gain a community member that says ‘okay now we want to be on board and do the outreach in our own community,’ we consider that a small win for us…that that is bringing the power to the people to take back their own neighborhoods,” said Roberson.
So far this year, there have been 90 shootings in Champaign. That’s already up from 76 total last year.
Danville also, so far, has seen the highest amount of shooting incidents this year compared to the past 5 years.