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Crime and Calls for Police Service Decline in Southeast Urbana Neighborhood
URBANA – Crime and calls for police service declined significantly last month in a southeast Urbana neighborhood that has been the focus of city attention.
Due to a spike in criminal activity, the city instituted stepped up police patrols in late April in an area bounded by Philo Road on the east, Mumford Drive on the south, Cottage Grove Avenue on the west and Colorado Avenue on the north. The area includes a number of apartment buildings, including one at 2017 S. Philo Road that was the site of a Feb. 14 murder.
Between late April and July, city police officers worked 500 hours of overtime in the neighborhood, in addition to regular patrols. City police were assisted by officers from the University of Illinois police department and the Champaign County sheriff’s office, who volunteered to walk foot patrols at no cost to the city.
Monthly breakdown of police activities:
Calls for Service
“Calls are down; criminal complaints are down,” said Lt. Robert Fitzgerald, who oversees the South Division beat that includes southeast Urbana. “I think having the extra officers over there really helped the people out. We’re getting positive feedback from business owners. Everyone says they are feeling safer.”
Criminal reports are incidents where police determine that a crime, such as a battery or possession of drugs, occurred and a report is written up.
The reduced criminal activity is significant in that August was the first month that Urbana police did not work overtime in the neighborhood, Fitzgerald said.
Police Chief Pat Connolly said cooperation from southeast Urbana residents, who have formed four neighborhood watch groups, has helped greatly. Business owners are also cooperating with police, he said.
“The good news is we have more and more community involvement, which is helping us with the resources we have to devote to that area,” Connolly said. “We had 63 people attend a recent neighborhood watch.”
Connolly also noted that while criminal reports were up in July, many of those reports were due to proactive policing, with police initiating contacts and generating cases as a result of good police work.
Other steps taken by the city appear to be working.
The Urbana City Council on Aug. 1 approved a new ordinance prohibiting aggressive solicitation throughout the city. The ordinance allows businesses to ban solicitation for money on their property, provided they post a “no soliciting” sign. Connolly said a number of businesses in southeast Urbana have already posted such signs and that soliciting reports in the Sunnycrest area have declined dramatically.
“We thought we’d get more complaints after we passed the ordinance, but almost immediately after it passed, the number of complaints actually declined because of the awareness,” Connolly said.
The city also entered into a nuisance abatement agreement in July with the owner of an apartment building on South Philo Road that had been the source of a large number of calls for police service. The agreement requires the owner to implement a number of steps to improve general safety, including screening tenants, evicting residents who commit crimes and better securing the apartment by requiring locks on all outer security doors.
Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing said city officials moved quickly to safeguard southeast Urbana. “Public safety is our number one priority,” she said. “Even though we have a very tight budget, we’ve done everything we can to make sure our police department is fully staffed. These efforts are paying off.”
City police also made key arrests in the neighborhood:
On March 11, police arrested Steven E. Taylor, 19, 1300 block of East Michigan Avenue, Urbana, for home invasion and related crimes. He was charged in Champaign County Circuit court with two counts of home invasion and armed robbery no firearm, among other charges. The home invasion occurred in the 1500 block of Fairlawn Drive. The suspect locked an elderly female in her closet at knife point and left her there over the weekend. She was found on the following Monday when an alert Postal Service carrier noticed something was wrong at the residence. Taylor was arrested after an investigation by the Criminal Investigations Division.
On Aug. 26, Urbana officers were able to arrest the second subject wanted in the fatal shooting of Kevin Jackson on Feb. 14 in an apartment building at 2017 S. Philo Road. Arrested and charged with five counts of murder was Terrell T. Larue, 19, 2200 block of Philo Road. The Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division was able to determine the offenders after an investigation. David L. Moore, 20, 1600 block of Hedge Road, Champaign, was arrested July 24 and charged with five counts of murder in the same incident.