This article was originally published in the University of Illinois Police Department Year In Review. To learn more about other department initiatives, statistics and goals, please review the report.
CHAMPAIGN — Instances of gun violence in the greater Champaign-Urbana area continue to drop, in large part because of the work of the multi-agency Street Crimes Task Force.
While gun violence on campus is rare, some areas of Champaign-Urbana do experience isolated instances of firearms-related crimes. And in September 2016, it became tragically clear that areas very close to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus are not immune.
Early on Sunday, Sept. 25, shots were fired following a fight in the 300 block of East Green Street, Champaign – only blocks from the U. of I. campus and in a central part of the campus nightlife area. Four people were hit with gunfire, one fatally. One of the victims who survived was a U. of I. graduate student.
The response was swift – within three days, the Champaign Police Department identified and obtained an arrest warrant for the shooter, and he turned himself in on Sept. 30. Over the months to come, another seven people who were involved in the fight which led to the shooting were identified and arrested.
Well before that, in June 2015, the University of Illinois Police Department teamed up with the Champaign and Urbana police departments and the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office to form the Street Crimes Task Force, a unit focused on identifying violent offenders and getting illegal guns off the streets.
Since then, the number of shootings in the greater Champaign-Urbana area has dropped sharply, and the work continues in 2017.
“This unit’s success is evident in the numbers of shootings reported in the area,” said U. of I. Police Lt. Joseph McCullough. “The drop is drastic, and I wholeheartedly believe that it is the targeted investigations being conducted by the Street Crimes Task Force.”
The group also investigates drug-related crimes, as bad drug deals or monetary debts can often be the impetus for gun violence. By reducing the amount of drug sales, police can also reduce the amount of violent crime associated with narcotics.
The University of Illinois Police Department has contributed at least two officers to the unit since its inception, and at times other detectives or the department’s narcotics K-9 unit have assisted.
Also hitting its stride is the C-U Fresh Start program, which launched in 2016 and is designed to deal with the social issues associated with gun violence. The program attempts to identify would-be offenders and offer them resources to succeed instead of continuing down a path toward a violent future.
While gun violence remains extremely uncommon on campus, no community is immune from crime. The University of Illinois Police Department makes the safety of students – as well as faculty and staff – it’s number one priority.
The combined patrol of four local police departments makes the Urbana campus the most-densely patrolled area in the region, and nearly 1,700 security cameras are placed in areas designed to deter crime.
These efforts, along with the work of the Street Crimes Task Force and the C-U Fresh Start program, are designed to prevent further instances of violence.