CHAMPAIGN – A new report from the Champaign Police Department says shooting incidents in 2022 were half of what they were in the previous year. A shooting incident is when police find evidence that a gun was fired.
The report — released this month — credits an increase in community engagement as the cause.
This is the first year shootings have decreased in Champaign since 2017, according to data from the Champaign Police Department.
“Our goal is to eradicate gun violence as a whole,” said Jorge Elvir, the City of Champaign’s community relations manager. “One shooting is too many shootings.”
The department also reported reducing homicides by almost half.
The Champaign City Council passed the Community Gun Violence Reduction Blueprint in February of 2022.
The blueprint outlines a plan to reduce gun violence by working with community organizations and addressing the root causes of violence like poverty, underfunded social programs and systemic racism.
Young people of color are most affected by gun violence in Champaign, according to reporting from CU-Citizen Access. Of the 50 lethal shootings in Champaign between 2015 and the first half of 2022, 15 victims were under 20 years old.
Gun violence soared in 2021 with 234 shooting incidents, according to data from the Champaign Police Department.
In 2022, Elvir, the community relations manager, said the city began holding meetings in communities where a shooting incident occurred. These meetings gave community members a chance to talk about their feelings and find resources they could access, Elvir said.
“They’re appreciative of the engagement, but that doesn’t eradicate everything that they’re going through,” Elvir said. “So they’re expressing their concern.”
The blueprint also includes funding for collaborations with local organizations to help tackle the root causes of violence. These groups are essential, Elvir said, because they’ve already built trust with the community.
In 2023, Elvir said he wants to create more partnerships with local organizations and ensure that current partners have sustainable plans to continue their work into the future.
The Champaign Police Department also increased traffic stops in 2022, installed automatic license plate readers to help investigate crimes and recovered over 230 guns, according to the report.
A big part of continuing to reduce gun violence in Champaign, Elvir said, is working together to provide resources to people affected by gun violence and listen to what citizens need to feel safe.
“We have to be one as one,” Elvir said. “So we have to be out there listening to what’s going on and trying to hear their perspective as well.”
Farrah Anderson is a journalist and student at the University of Illinois. Follow her on Twitter @farrahsoa.