Kankakee meeting discusses working on solutions to gun violence

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KANKAKEE — Terrance Stevenson grew up in Marycrest subdivision where his parents have owned a house since the 1970s. He graduated from Kankakee schools.

Though Stevenson now lives in Champaign, he stays in touch with his brother and nephews who still live in Kankakee.

“What I’m hearing from my brother when I call in to check in on my nephews” about violence in the city, Stevenson said Friday night during a meeting in the Kankakee High School gymnasium. “He told me my nephews wanted to go out and play basketball but could not go outside because the streets are [dangerous]. That’s a problem.”

The meeting, which drew about 100 people, was held amid the ongoing gun violence on the east side of Kankakee.

It came five days after the Sept. 13 homicide of Marquise J. Smith in the 1300 block of East Maple Street. He was shot standing outside his home. Dejour Turner-Owens has been arrested and charged with Smith’s death.

At the time, it was the city’s fifth homicide this year. Now there’s a sixth. On Sunday, police investigated the death of 16-year-old Pagan Torres Davier who was hit by multiple shots as he sat in a car in the 600 block of South Nelson Avenue.

Kankakee Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong said the city’s First and Second wards are the problem areas.

“It is happening in one area but it affects the entire city,” Wells-Armstrong said.

Stevenson said he talked to his 87-year-old father an hour before Friday’s meeting who still lives in family home in Marycrest.

His father said he doesn’t go out because he is cautious.

“We have heard and talked about programs to help youth and that is OK,” Stevenson said. “I appreciate all the programs. That’s going to help the kids in school now. But those who are doing the shooting are not participating in these programs.

“They’re not participating in meetings like this. It’s going to take a conversation outside this venue … so you can actually get to the people doing this harm to our community. It’s gotta change.

“Somebody knows who is doing the shooting,” Stevenson continued. “They may be here tonight. Who knows who has been pulling the guns and shootings? You have to be willing to turn these people in,” he said. “It’s going to take conversations outside this arena. Because this conversation can turn very political, very accusatory, there can be a lot of finger-pointing back and forth.”

Stevenson said many play a role in the solution, including the police department, schools, government officials and residents.

“When I was growing up, I could get a whopping on Fairmount and I could get another on Marycrest,” he said. “You can’t do that now because people call the police on parents that do that now. It’s gotta change.”

Hamim Lillard was the moderator for the event that lasted 90 minutes. Lillard is the new community outreach specialist position with the Kankakee County State’s Attorney’s office in partnership with Kankakee School District 111 and the Kankakee County Board.

A person attending the meeting posted a video of it on Facebook.

Lilllard said officials from the city, Kankakee County, Kankakee school district and Kankakee Valley Park District were there to listen.

“We want to hear what solutions you have to help end this,” he said.

Steven Hunter, a former alderman who now is on the Kankakee County Board, said more neighborhood associations need to be organized. Such organizations are helpful to the residents as well as police, he said.

Kankakee police have investigated 30 reports of shots fired so far this year. During Friday’s meeting, Kankakee Police Chief Frank Kosman said that compares to 29 during the same time span in 2019 and 27 in 2018.

“This has been a long-term problem that needs a long-term solution,” Kosman said.

Within the next two months, the city will have a system in place that can detect shots being fired within 15 meters of where it occurred.

As of Aug. 1, Kosman said 13 guns have been seized and officers have made 10 weapons arrests.

Kosman said residents need to lock their vehicles. They have had five thefts of weapons that were left in unlocked vehicles.

KVPD Commissioner J.J. Hollis said this is not an east-side problem or a west-side problem.

“This is a Kankakee problem,” he said. “We need to work together to bring the city back to greatness.”

Region: Northern,Region: Kankakee,Feeds,News,City: Kankakee

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September 22, 2020 at 08:15AM

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