CHAMPAIGN, Ill. WCIA — The Champaign Police Department enlisted support from neighboring law enforcement agencies this month in its latest effort to curb “unlawful” and “criminal” activity downtown.

Police expected larger crowds in the summer months, Lt. Andre Davis said, but in reality, “we’re seeing crowds that are larger than we even anticipated.”

This is the latest in a number of efforts to curb violence downtown. Last summer the city closed a couple of parking lots to discourage gatherings and open container violations which had been the site of some disturbances, including gunfire.

Then, private security firm AGB was brought in from Chicago in anticipation of bigger crowds this summer as pandemic restrictions fell away and in the last couple of weeks, police decided they still needed more support, “particularly after midnight on Fridays and Saturdays,” Lt. Davis said.

The Champaign Police Department has been short-staffed for two years now. The agency brought in weekend support within the last two weeks from Illinois State Police, University of Illinois Police, and sometimes, Champaign County Sheriff’s deputies to patrol the area.

“So there’s always strength in numbers,” Lt. Davis said.

The site of the city’s latest shooting was more than a mile northeast of downtown early Saturday morning.
A 19 and 25-year-old were hurt. The shooting had no connection to downtown, Lt. Davis said.

“Absolutely not.”

Jorge Elvir was hired by the city in May as the community relations manager over the new Equity and Engagement Department.

“It was one of the pop-up parties that we’ve been dealing with,” he said.

“The City of Champaign and the police department have been dealing with that for a couple of weeks now, trying to grab ahold of that. And every time, you know, we shut one down, another one pops up at a different location.”

Police say a fight broke out during a large gathering in the 1100 block of N 3rd street. Officers reported a crowd of around 200 people, but not enough information from witnesses to make an arrest.

“I mean, it’s always been an issue you know,” Lt. Davis said.

“We can’t do our job without the community and the community bringing information to us.”

Elvir’s staff members are on the ground in neighborhoods in the aftermath of gun violence. His department was created as a part of Champaign’s Gun Violence Reduction Blueprint, which also included plans to increase the percentage of crimes solved. Programs like Crime Stoppers were allotted additional funds to increase rewards.

“We try to stay away from the investigative part, that’s more police,” Elvir said when asked about the disconnect between the number of witnesses and information available to law enforcement.

“We have our justice victim’s advocate that works collaboratively with the police. You know, down the road, they’ll be housed there and working directly and trying to get a firsthand assessment of what’s going on on the scene, you know, when these gun violence situations take place.”

The Equity and Engagement Department’s focus is on connecting witnesses, victims and families of violent crime to services, according to Elvir, Like trauma support and financial help when violent crimes result in property damage.

Staff is also involved on the proactive side of things, he said, like added programming for teenagers and mentorship in hopes that fewer teens will be in a situation where they would have something to report to the police in the first place.

“Unfortunately, we have to change some mindsets,” he said. “But we think that we’ll get more outcomes by building mindsets in the long run.”

Lt. Davis said there’s been a noticeable decrease in the number of disturbances with every mitigation effort, including the added patrols.