Sixteen people have been shot in Springfield in the last two months, according to city police. Usual numbers for this time of year are between two and three people per month.
A couple dozen Springfield leaders gathered across the street from the site of a recent deadly shooting Friday to renounce the violence and call for solutions.
Police Chief Kenny Winslow said gangs are responsible for some of the shootings. He said it’s a problem the police can’t tackle alone.
“Our community is fed up with it,” Winslow said. “I am asking our community to step forward and take an active role in this problem before more bloodshed or young lives are lost.”
Winslow and others called on residents to cooperate with police in investigations. Officials with Crime Stoppers of Sangamon and Menard Counites announced they would up their rewards for tips that lead to arrests for an illegal handgun to $500 and an illegal rifle to $1,000.
Meanwhile, law enforcement officials had harsh words and threats for those responsible for the shootings, promising to prosecute. Sangamon County State’s Attorney Dan Wright said committing an act of violence is a choice.
“If you choose incorrectly, choose to turn to gun violence, that choice comes with irreversible consequences,” Wright said.
Mayor Jim Langfelder said the city is also pursuing consequences, including fines, for property owners. He said the city sought a temporary restraining order against the owner of a building on South Grand Avenue East where a person was killed and four others wounded at a party in mid-February.
“The city of Springfield will prosecute criminally and civilly,” Langfelder said. “All those involved, those doing the violent and illegal activities, as well as the party planners, attendees and property owners.”
While Langfelder said violence is happening all over the city, some city leaders called for more economic development on the east side and drew attention to the impact violence is having on young people.
“Only thing we can do is try to lead by example, and try to let these kids know that their lives matter,” said Southeast High School boys basketball coach Lawrence Thomas, who stood with coaches from three other high schools. “It hurts them too, and we can see it in their day to day dealings with us.”
Tiffany Mathis – head of the Boys and Girls Club of Central Illinois and a Springfield school board member – talked about the recent loss of a club member to gun violence. She had a message specifically for young people.
“There's nothing you could do that you couldn't come to one of us and say something,” Mathis said. “And we will look out for you and take care of you and make sure that you're taking care of. You can never get away from the community members that truly love you.”