Downstate Illinois communities dealing with violent crime

(The Center Square) – Chicago may steal the headlines with the reports of violent crime, but there are some downstate communities dealing with a similar problem.

Two more people were shot and killed in Peoria last weekend, and Decatur has set a record with nine murders so far this year, more than all of last year.

“We got to strategize, we have to mobilize, and get in front of this thing,” Terry Burnside, executive director of the non-profit violence prevention organization House of Hope, said.

In Peoria, there are calls for ways to combat violence, but how to go about it varies.

The Peoria City Council recently shut down the idea of using city funds to allow for the organization Cure Violence Global to conduct an initial assessment of the city.

The move irked the Peoria branch of the NAACP, which posted a message on its Facebook page that said “with little to no regard to the plight of Black children and citizens’ life safety, six white councilmen quickly voted down the mere $25,000 for the Cure Violence assessment.”

The Peoria NAACP and Illinois State Police District 8 recently adopted a set of principles aimed at improving the relationship between local law enforcement and the Black community. The 10 principles call for building trust through increasing police diversity, requiring de-escalation training for law enforcement, and supporting more collaborative community policing strategies. Similar agreements have been made in other communities throughout the state.

Although homicides are down in Champaign this year, shooting incidents are on the rise. The city has hired private security guards to patrol streets at night. Champaign Center Partnership executive director Xander Hazel told WCIA-TV that the guards offer peace of mind.

“Downtown Champaign is a great place for people to come together,” Hazel said. “It’s very family friendly and there’s a lot to see and do. We just want to make sure that people are safe doing it.”

In Carbondale, the city has partnered with Southern Illinois University in an attempt to find a solution to address violence in the area. The city allocated more than $64,000 to SIU to fund a study that will conclude in September.

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