A lot is expected of our local police and it's time for a community conversation on what we can do to help lessen the amount of gun violence in the Twin Cities.
Just last week, Bloomington officers were called — again — to investigate a report of gunshots. No one was injured, but police found ample evidence that bullets had been fired at an unoccupied car.
A spurt of similar reports occurred shortly after Thanksgiving. The number of confirmed incidents in 2017 is far lower than in 2016, but it's fair to say that any incident is one too many.
In Urbana, where gunshots after a recent high school basketball game left three people injured, community leaders are promoting a town hall discussion on Jan. 17.
Stories of gunfire in other Central Illinois cities come almost daily. It's not a problem that belongs solely to one city, one neighborhood, one political party, one race; instead, it's part of a larger problem that's one part drugs, one part economy and one part accessibility.
"Every city in Illinois is currently struggling with this," Jack McQueen, Bloomington's supervisor of criminal analysis unit, told The Pantagraph in October for a story on the spike in gunfire incidents. "Gang youth are infatuated with firearms and the possession of firearms. In many of these groups, it’s seen as a status symbol to possess and/or carry a firearm.”
Gang involvement or not, using a gun as part of a crime increases the likelihood of an injury and ups the seriousness of the crime. When you have a gun and threaten someone for money or other possessions, you'll have a better chance of success.
The money likely will be used for illegal purchases of some sort (it's an odd case when you rob a bank to pay a mortgage) but the bigger issue is the easy accessibility to firearms and other weapons.
On its face, the discussion may seem simplistic: get rid of guns and you get rid of the problem. That, of course, won't work in the long run. Someone bent on doing harm will find a way. But, just as with any complex problem, the key is to outline the scope of the problem, dig deep to find possible causes, partner with people and agencies near those causes, and work together to find reasonable solutions.
In Urbana, for instance, in addition to police, prosecutors and concerned citizens, the Parent-Teacher Association wants to get involved. The PTA already is involved in another group that includes law enforcement, educators, mental health and child-welfare organizations to work on youth initiatives.
Finding a solution to quell gun violence must be a group effort that involves listening, understanding and alternatives. It will not be an easy fix, but it is a discussion that bears local public attention.