CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA)– The number of people murdered in the City of Champaign reached an all-time high in 2021.
17 people, including teenagers, lost their lives. All but one of those victims were shot and killed and dozens more were injured.
77 people were shot in Champaign last year. In 2020, 57 were shot, and 34 in 2019.
Willy-Ann Hoff is a staple at C-U non-profit HV Neighborhood Transformation these days. Although she smiles and laughs when she remembers her son, Stateman Hoff, she will be grieving his loss for the rest of her days.
“When he came around family, he would always put a smile on his face and just ‘kissy, kissy’, just loving type of son,” he reminisced.
“I said, ‘Okay, I love you,'” Hoff shared. “That was my last word to my child.”
Stateman Hoff’s life was cut short when a fight broke out at a party in northwest Champaign in 2016. His mother said a bullet to the abdomen took him away from her. The son, and father of two, was 22 years old.
“He bled out,” Willy-Ann Hoff said, her lip quivering. “…which is the worst way to die.”
“My child wasn’t perfect, no child is perfect. I’m not perfect,” she added.
The gun violence in the city has escalated since Stateman Hoff’s death. Five years later, it hit that record-setting number for both shootings and murders in the city.
“Seems like there’s a curse in this town, seems like there’s a dark cloud,” Hoff told WCIA 3 Thursday.
“It’s alarming,” Champaign Deputy Chief Geoff Coon said. “There’s no question about that, and as a law enforcement officer, something I’ve done for the last 24 years, I take it personally.”
Deputy Chief Coon oversees the Champaign County Street Crimes Task Force. The multi-jurisdictional unit was formed in 2015 in direct response to an increase in gun violence in Champaign-Urbana.
It’s led by the Champaign Police Department but includes members from the Urbana Police Department, the University of Illinois Police Department and the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office.
“Keying in on the individuals involved in gun crime activities,” Coon explained.
The task force took nearly 100 guns off the street last year. The Champaign Police Department, alone, removed 165. Although, the effort overlaps some.
“A lot of criminals are using handguns with extended magazines, 30-round capacities, or even drum magazines which have 50-round capacities,” Coon said of recent trends among the guns recovered.
“…Sometimes people have been as brazen as to, you know, mark their location and challenge somebody.”
As we dive into a new year, Hoff wants to see the community, police, and organizations working for change on the ground level to form a stronger bond.
“We do not want to see any more moms hurting any longer,” Hoff shared.
Meanwhile, Urbana police reported 10 homicides for 2021, also a record. The previous high was four.
Police plea for more witnesses of gun-related crime to come forward, something they say is a primary hindrance in solving cases.
If you have any information about any incident, you can call police directly or report it anonymously to Crime Stoppers.