Champaign shooting incidents drop by half in 2022

By Aidan Sadovi, Assistant News Editor

Shooting incidents in Champaign fell 50% in 2022 from 2021, according to the Champaign Police Department statistics released on Jan. 5. This marked the first year-over-year drop in shooting incidents since 2017.

There were 259 recorded shooting incidents in 2021. In 2022, the number plummeted to 129, according to CPD. Police define a shooting incident as “anytime police find evidence that a gun was fired.”  

CPD also reported a 47% decrease in homicides, as well as the seizure and recovery of 236 firearms.

Joe Lamberson, CPD spokesperson, said the city is taking a multi-pronged approach to tackling gun violence. 

“So, Champaign as a whole is attacking gun violence from multiple angles — not just from a policing standpoint — but also from the perspective of targeting its root causes: income inequality, long-standing trauma … working to ensure that the needs of our residents are met in an attempt to reduce the cycle.”

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Lamberson also pointed to both “good police work” and community engagement. 

“What we’re chalking it up to is good police work, the fact that we solved eight of the nine homicides we had last year … and leveraging technology by our investigators, but also we’ve been able to reignite our community engagement — getting good witnesses and information to come forward.” 

Some of the new technology includes Automated License Plate Readers, which CPD said aided in investigations “including three homicides and in locating 12 stolen vehicles.” 

The CPD release also stated that police personnel “committed more than 363 staff hours to attend 81 events in 2022.” These events included community meetings, special events and activities for kids. 

“Meaningful, positive connections and building trust during the fun times — those relationships carry forward, and that trust carries forward in times where we need the community to come forward and assist us in investigation,” Lamberson said.  

In February of 2022, on the heels of an especially violent 2021 in Champaign, the City Council passed the Community Gun Violence Reduction Blueprint, a “comprehensive strategy to address the root causes of gun violence,” according to the city. 

Lamberson said the Blueprint is “allocating funding and resources to a variety of grassroots and local organizations … to ensure that we are holistically approaching the problem of gun violence from multiple angles.”  

One organization funded by the 2022 Blueprint is the nonprofit CU Trauma and Resiliency Initiative, or CU TRI.

Since its inception in 2019, the organization has been involved in the community violence response, according to CU TRI Program Director Karen Simms. 

“We provide a lot of different levels of care … We also are funded by the Blueprint to build a mental health network — we have clinicians who are available to provide support for survivors who’ve been impacted by gun violence, doing a bunch of trauma-specific therapeutic interventions,” Simms said.

In a partnership with Carle Hospital, CU TRI also provides a hospital crisis response for victims, as well as taking referrals for care that doesn’t directly come from the city. CU TRI also works closely with Justice Victim Advocates, which “assists individuals and families navigating the criminal justice system beginning with initial law enforcement contact,” according to the victim advocacy page on the city’s website.

“Yes, there’s been an increased reduction in gun crimes, and we’ve definitely felt that,” Simms said. “We’ve really been — thanks to the funding from the city — really committed to making sure that no survivor doesn’t have someone reach out to them, engage with them, offer some support.” 

Simms compared trauma — which she said can stem from systemic, structural and policy issues like lack of opportunity for young people and lack of positive family relationships — to a “wound.”

“So, if I’m in a neighborhood, and I feel like I have to keep myself safe and no one has helped me work on safety and support strategies, and I keep getting re-traumatized or stressed, I’m probably more likely — based on data and science — to engage in violent behavior … So violent trauma begets more violent trauma,” she said.

Simms said a goal of this year is to increase the community’s availability of “trauma-specific strategies” that are “culturally responsive” and that the surrounding community would engage in. 

The pandemic has seen successive years of triple-digit numbers for shooting incidents in Champaign. In 2020, the city counted 189 confirmed shooting incidents, up from 100 in 2019. The next year saw another growth, eventually reaching 259. 

Of the four prior pre-pandemic years, only 2019 (with 100 incidents) counted a number of shooting incidents equal to or greater than 100. 2016, 2017 and 2018 saw 76, 61 and 76 shooting incidents, respectively.

Ariston Liu, freshman in DGS, is on Student Patrol at UIUC, which operates mostly around Green Street in Campustown. 

Last year’s reduction in shooting incidents was a surprise to Liu. “I would assume after (COVID-19) restrictions were lifted there’d be more violence with everyone coming back outside,” he said. 

On Oct. 1, UIPD took over responsibility for the campus from CPD. 

Lamberson said there have been times when firearms have been discharged in the campus town area. 

“Whenever those situations do arise,” Lamberson said. “We work as a law enforcement community, it’s not just Champaign police, but CPD and UIPD, Urbana, Champaign County.” 

Lamberson said there was a homicide on campus during the summer. The person who discharged a firearm and committed the homicide, he said, was under arrest the same day.

Due to his job on student patrol — often walking with students on SafeWalks — Liu says he sees a lot of UIPD. 

“I feel very safe having seen their response times,” Liu said.