CU Fresh Start held its second Call-In meeting on March 9, 2017. At the Call-In, law enforcement representatives, community members and social service providers met face-to-face with eleven individuals who are known to be involved in local gun-related incidents and shootings. The message was clear and direct – “The gun violence in our community must stop now.”
The eleven individuals were addressed by a panel of community leaders and heard about the devastation and damage that gun violence has on innocent victims, families, the community, and their own loved ones. The purpose of the meeting was to alert the participants of the swift and certain consequences they will face for gun-related crimes, as well as an offering of assistance to those ready to make a fresh start.
“These individuals have a choice to make,” reports Tracy Parsons, Facilitator of the Champaign Community Coalition. “If they choose to put the guns down and pursue a different course of action, we’re offering to help them get the resources they need to become productive, law-abiding members of our community. But if they choose to continue their violent ways, we’re letting them know they’ll be prosecuted to the greatest extent possible. The choice is theirs and we all hope they make the right one.”
Thursday night was the second Call-In for the new CU Fresh Start initiative. During the first Call-In on October 6, 2016, nine participants were given a similar opportunity to stop their violent ways and to accept help changing the course of their lives. Six of the original participants are still actively engaged with the initiative and continue to receive supportive services. CU Fresh Start leaders are cautiously optimistic about the success the first group has shown. Despite considerable challenges, the six remaining participants continue to meet the conditions of their parole or probation, none have been re-arrested for any crimes, some are furthering their education, and others are either employed or actively seeking employment.
An innovative initiative aimed at reducing local gun violence, CU Fresh Start utilizes a focused-deterrence approach to address individuals who are known to be involved in gun-related incidents and shootings. Law enforcement and community members worked together to identify participants for the Call-In, using the objective criteria of: age 18 or older, on parole or probation, prior felony arrest, prior gun arrest or violent crime conviction, and credible information of recent involvement in violent crime. The success of the initiative relies on three pillars – community, law enforcement, and supportive services.
“The amount of recent gun violence is unprecedented and unacceptable to our community,” added Parsons. “But we know we can’t arrest our way out of this situation and that law enforcement can’t do it alone. CU Fresh Start is a unique way in which our community has come together to tackle this problem head on. If these individuals are truly ready to make a fresh start, we’re ready to help be their guide.”
CU Fresh Start is a priority initiative of the Champaign Community Coalition. To learn more about the Coalition and how to get involved, visit ChampaignCommunityCoalition.org.
Contact: Tracy Parsons | 217-403-8830 | firstname.lastname@example.org