Neighborhood finds success fighting crime

Published 02/26 2013 10:48PM

Updated 02/27 2013 02:59PM

CHAMPAIGN -- It's not unusual for officers to patrol the streets of Garden Hills. Several years ago, the neighborhood had some of the highest crime calls in the city.

"The frequency and the nature of those cases was substantial, said Lieutenant Dave Schaffer, who oversees the officers in Northwest Champaign.

Shaffer uses intelligence-led policing to make every patrol count. The system allows him to look over recent cases and track any trends. He does this weekly so that his team knows where to patrol.

This way the police force has the best chance of being close. Shaffer refers to this method as a "surgical approach."

In fact, Shaffer's strategy is working so well that crime calls are down nine percent from 2009. These statistics provide new hope for families in the neighborhood.

"There's children running down the street, those are happy signs of a life in the neighborhood," said Phil McGarvey a longtime Garden Hills resident.

McGarvey also said that the streets are safer because more neighbors have been getting involved.

"To be a good neighbor, it's not just waiting to see what bad happens. You actually have to do something good," said McGarvey.

Youth programs have also helped keep the crime down.

"If you present them with an activity, the kids want to do the right thing. They just need the opportunity to do that," said Neighborhood Programs Manager Kerri Spear.

Programs such as At Operation Hope give teens help with homework and enable them to prepare for college. Spear says the kids who take part miss less school and get better grades.

Although there have been drastic improvements in recent years, there is still more to be done according to Neighborhood Association President Amy Revilla. "You know we're not going to quit."

Among the 800 homes in Garden Hills, Revilla believes one of the most necessary improvements will be to have landlords more involved.

"We can't say it's where we want to be because it's not yet. But we're working towards that and I think we're going to accomplish it," said Revilla.

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