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After violence at a pop-up party on Sunday left 9 injured, Champaign considers how to prevent future violence

Urbana High School student Serenity Dodge (left) would like to see more security cameras and afterschool programs.

CHAMPAIGN — Neighbors and social workers gathered at the Douglass Annex Thursday to discuss violence at parties that pop up after bars close.

Some wanted curfews and security cameras. Middle school teacher Rhonda Harris suggested the city host its own safe version with police and chaperones.

“We can have a controlled area, like a parking lot, where all the food trucks gather from 2:00 to 3:30 in the morning, and we feed everybody before we send them home,” Harris said.

Harris has seen larger cities do something similar.

The city of Champaign hosted the event as part of its gun violence reduction blueprint. Those in the city’s Equity and Engagement Department have hosted about eight such events since July 2022. Each takes place after a major incident of gun violence has occurred, in the neighborhood where it happened.

Serenity Dodge is a 17-year-old at Urbana High School. She wants to see more security cameras, as well as more access to programs like those at the Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club.

Dodge says she is still processing Sunday’s violence. Two of her friends and acquaintances have been shot in previous acts of violence, and she feels numb, she said.

“I’m still feeling nothing. I can’t feel anything because it’s very traumatizing. It hurts,” she said.

According to Champaign Deputy Police Chief of Operations Kevin Olmstead, a total of nine people were hurt at a pop-up party near Douglass Park on Sunday. Four were hit by gunshots, including a 17-year-old who was hit in the head. Others were injured in car crashes as those at the party tried to flee.

Two others were injured near South Neil Street the same evening in a separate argument.

Despite these recent incidents, Champaign Police say gun violence in the city is down 70 percent compared to this time last year — from 54 victims last year to 11 victims this year.

Those involved in the city’s violence reduction blueprint say these numbers show the plan is working. 

Emily Hays is a reporter for Illinois Public Media. Follow her on Twitter @amihatt.

Picture of Emily Hays

Emily Hays

Emily Hays started at WILL in October 2021 after three-plus years in local newsrooms in Virginia and Connecticut. She has won state awards for her housing coverage at Charlottesville Tomorrow and her education reporting at the New Haven Independent. Emily graduated from Yale University where she majored in History and South Asian Studies.

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