Champaign, Ill. (WCIA) —
“Why are these picking up guns? Why are they shooting? We have to address that,” Anthony Cobb, Champaign Police Chief, said.
That’s what community leaders are trying to figure out, and they hope one program may help. Its called the lift program, which is intended to help families and individuals in need of some support.
Shootings in Champaign have continued to rise and members of the community are calling for a change.
“Everybody is concerned and frustrated because we’re so much better than that,” Minnie Pearson, NAACP Champaign County President, said.
The Champaign mayor, police chief, and two activists met Friday to discuss the rise in gun violence. This stemmed after two shootings in just twelve hours of each other, and resulted in a pregnant woman being shot and hospitalized.
“Angry and sad. That’s the only way to describe the emotions I currently feel,” Mayor Deb Feinen said.
Earlier in the year, a two- year old in Urbana was also hit by gun fire.
“No one wants to see any bystander injured. Whether there are 2 or 92. I think those are the things. And that’s why we ask people to come forward with information and call us right away,” Bryant Seraphin, Urbana Police Chief, said.
Officials are taking action. Champaign and Urbana police say they are utilizing their streets crime task force. Its main focus is violent crime, such as gun violence.
“This gun violence it has to be a priority. We have to deal with it,” Chief Cobb said.
While police work to get the guns off the streets and deal with the violence, officials are working to get programs going for youths or individuals who may need extra help.
“I’m really happy this is starting now. Its a paired down version of what we wanted, but for obvious reasons it has to be this way, and sometimes its good to start small,” Matthew Gladney, Champaign City Council member, said.
The LIFT program was just approved at a city council meeting. It includes supporting youth and families and helping improve people’s quality of life. The program also partners with the Unit 4 School District to support youths in crisis. Meanwhile, other community members are also looking for more ways to keep youths busy.
“We’re trying to come up with recreational solutions to get involved because as you know school is almost out and summer is here, and so we want to have something productive to get involved in,” Pearson said.
She says a change needs to happen soon.
“The road that they’re going down is going to end up with them being dead,” Pearson said.
Champaign police say there has been a 113% increase in confirmed shots fired calls compared to this time last year. The police encourage people to speak up if they know anything. People can submit anonymous tips through Crime stoppers.
More information on the LIFT program: