URBANA – The University of Illinois Police Department said it has hired all of the officers needed to help Champaign Police patrol Campustown, the southeastern section of the city. The seven new uniformed officers will begin their patrols on October 1 in place of Champaign officers.
Faced with a shortage of officers, the city of Champaign will pay $840,000 per year to the U of I for the patrol services.
U of I Assistant Police Chief Tim Hetrick said the new patrols will operate from Neil Street to the city’s eastern border at Wright Street, and south from Springfield Avenue to Windsor Road. He said two officers will be on duty for each shift.
“It’ll allow us to better serve our community,” said Hetrick. “And we’ll be able to spend dedicated time there patrolling, probably more so than CPD has been able to, at least with their staffing shortage, as it is.”
However, Hetrick said Champaign Police will step in to handle major cases.
“Homicides will be handled by Champaign,” Hetrick added. “Now, that being said, it’s very likely that we’ll be the first on the scene and the first ones to start that investigation.”
The Champaign City Council voted last April to approve an intergovernmental agreement with the university to provide the patrol services for two years (with an option for a third).
The city council’s action came amidst concerns about a rise in shooting incidents in Champaign. Shooting incidents appear to be on the decline in Champaign. The city’s police department reported in July that the number of shootings for the year-to-date in 2022 declined by 51%, compared to the same period in 2021.
Still, Champaign’s Campustown has continued to see violent incidents, such as the fatal shooting of Joshua Berg of Urbana near Second and Green Street on July 15.
Community Service Officers to aid UIPD uniformed officers
As the new Campustown patrols begin, the UIPD hopes to use non-sworn personnel, known as Community Service Officers, to do some of its fieldwork. They will handle calls that don’t require intervention, according to Assistant Chief Joe McCullough.
McCullough said he wants to have around four Community Service Officers trained and hired in the next three weeks. They should be ready to serve by October 1.
“They will not respond, if we feel like there’s an offender on the scene, or if it’s a crime against a person in progress,” said McCullough. “That’s just not what this is for. They’re not equipped for that. But they will write reports. They’ll be on our radios. They’ll have a marked UIPD vehicle that identifies them as Community Service Officers. They will not wear the traditional uniform.”
And McCullough said the UIPD plans to continue using Community Service Officers, after Champaign Police take back responsibility for Campustown patrol duties.