CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) – Victory over violence is more than just police officers at the crime scene, mayors addressing the community, or parents talking to their kids. The Champaign County Community Coalition says it takes a village.
It’s been a year of unprecedented times.
“From the police perspective, we’ve seen a rise, an increase, and an unprecedented level of gun violence,” Bryant Seraphin, Urbana Police Chief says.
He says in his 27 years on the force, he’s never seen anything like this.
“I believe, just the number of victims, and the devastation has been something that’s been clearly different from what we perhaps have seen even just a few years ago,” he says.
He says it can’t just be police officers working to end violence. It needs to be a group effort.
Tracy Parsons believes the same.
“We need all involved on board to have a space, to have a role. Law enforcement can’t arrest their way out of it, and the community members can’t do it without resources,” Parsons says.
Parsons is the facilitator for Champaign County Community Coalition. It’s a group that helps bring these people from different jobs and backgrounds together to help.
“Working with, talking with, trying to provide resources out in our, I would say the hottest areas, where the gun violence is taking place. It’s all over our community right now. So, that just requires us to do more. I’ve always said we’re not going to normalize this gun violence. We’re not just going to say it’s happening all over the country and accept that,” Parson says.
Organizers say the coalition is a central hub and town hall to talk about big issues happening in each neighborhood and take action.
“It’s going to require all hands-on deck, everyone in the community saying, “No, we won’t allow this to become the way things are in Champaign County,” and we’re going to address this,” he says.
That’s why they bring people from local law enforcement agencies, schools, city leaders, other organizations, formerly incarcerated people, and everyday citizens into the meetings to help come up with ideas.
The coalition does more than just discuss gun violence. They discuss the most pressing issues facing the community. Right now, Parsons says, that is gun violence.
“Our community gun violence has reached a crisis level, an unprecedented level. The types of gun violence we’re seeing today, the ammunition that’s being used, the irresponsibility of the shooters, the devastation that’s being caused,” he says. “We’ve never seen this before in our community, so it is probably our most pressing issue as a community.”
They also discuss youth development and have school leaders get involved at their meetings. They’ve tackled COVID-19 community issues, and anything that impacts the entire community.
That’s why they have people like Carla Boyd come to their meetings. Boyd is the Human Rights and Equity officer for the city of Urbana. Among other things, she helps investigate charges of discrimination.
She’s new to the role, but is ready to be a part of the organization making a difference in Champaign County.
“That’s an opportunity for all of those involved, all of the interested parties that are concerned about our community, that want to see the community successful, and see the community grow that we’re all at the table, that we’re talking to each other,” Boyd says.
Seraphin says the most important thing you can do to help the community is to get involved.
He says it doesn’t have to be with the Community Coalition. It can be with Habitat for Humanity, or reading books to kids at an after-school program. He just says it’s important to be present.
If you want to be involved with the Champaign County Coalition, you can learn about upcoming meetings and events on their website, here.